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May Afternoon Yields New Appreciation


Yesterday I treated myself to a poetry reading. I was not in a coffeehouse or tearoom or on the lanai, more’s the pity. I wasn’t sipping a mint julep or even a root beer on this fine afternoon in May. I was in my home office doing a Google search for a blog topic. A random cluster of words from the framed calligraphy on my wall brought up a video spot on YouTube of Jenny Joseph reading her famous poem, Warning. Then I listened as the next YouTube video started automatically. It was Helena Bonham Carter reading the same poem.


This post is not an analysis of the poem or a comparison or critique of the readers and their reading styles. It is to declare that I took a minute, barely a minute, to appreciate someone else’s creativity. I was just there, period. I was present. I was tuned in. When was the last time you took “barely a minute” to fully appreciate some else? Here’s the poem. Take a minute to read it, better still, do a YouTube search for “Jenny Joseph Warning”. I think you’ll be glad you did.


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me. And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter. I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells And run my stick along the public railings And make up for the sobriety of my youth. I shall go out in my slippers in the rain And pick flowers in other people’s gardens And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat And eat three pounds of sausages at a go Or only bread and pickle for a week And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry And pay our rent and not swear in the street And set a good example for the children. We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

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