This week’s poem is Jenny Joseph’s “Warning” which I have chosen because it is light-hearted but carries a great message.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tiredJenny Joseph (1932—2018)
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.
Poem 249. Warning
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 practice a little now? So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
Jenny Joseph captures the feeling that we often have while we are in the responsible years of looking after children and having friends to dinner and doing our best to be respectable and fit in with those around us: someday we will shed those responsibilities and return to the freedom of youth.
She paints a picture of an elderly couple whose behaviour seems eccentric but not unlikely: they please themselves and are enjoying their lives: wearing what they like, sitting down where they like and eating what they like.
At the end of the poem Joseph suggests that we shouldn’t wait until we are old to enjoy these freedoms: we should practice a little now, start to enjoy ourselves while we are still young, since there is no second chance.
I like this poem because it’s funny, it prompts us to enjoy what we have while we have it, and I think that’s an excellent message to start a new year with: carpe diem!