Jul 17

The malocclusions, the inconditions of love

I don’t have kids, although I hope my life works out so that someday I do. I know people who are very pro-kid and very anti-kid, but I don’t hold strong opinions about how other people should think about having kids.

Yet years ago, I was attending the wonderful Printer’s Ball out in Chicago, and I picked up a postcard printed with this poem about children. It really struck me. I’ve kept the postcard ever since:

People who have no children can be hard:
Attain a mail of ice and insolence:
Need not pause in the fire, and in no sense
Hesitate in the hurricane to guard.
And when wide world is bitten and bewarred
They perish purely, waving their spirits hence
Without a trace of grace or of offense
To laugh or fail, diffident, wonder-starred.
While through a throttling dark we others hear
The little lifting helplessness, the queer
Whimper-whine; whose unridiculous
Lost softness softly makes a trap for us.
And makes a curse. And makes a sugar of
The malocclusions, the inconditions of love.

That’s the first stanza of Gwendolyn Brooks’ 1949 poem, “The Children of the Poor.”