Standing Near As They Struggle

Standing Near As They Struggle

I’m not typically a poetry guy but I found this poem (The Writer by Richard Wilbur), and the email from Jay Payleitner, worth my time. Read the poem a couple of times, even if you’re not a poetry guy. Can you identify with this father’s heart? He listens to his daughter struggle with an assignment and remembers the joy they shared as they saw a trapped bird struggle, then fly to freedom.

The Writer by Richard Wilbur (1921 - 2017)

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten.
I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

It’s never easy but our kids are more resilient when we stand near as they struggle, and resist intervening.

 Jay Payleitner is a friend and the editor of How to Disciple Men (Short & Sweet).

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