Stephen Fuller *** Poetry, Essays

Letter to the Young Poet, or the Into My Own Letter Where the Old Poet Responds to His Young Self (and Responds to the Go Dog Go Weekly Writing Prompt/Challenge with a Fine Cider Toast Reflection… Day Four)

On my walk today, Young Poet, I reflected on your letter to focus on something different than the world falling apart around us.  Be grateful for all of these opportunities and those lives that have been woven into your own; be grateful for fist pumps and even for the indifference.  Someday you will lose your father, and others whose mattering to you won’t truly be known until the memory of their last smile becomes the source of tears that seem from nowhere welled.  Someday things will happen that you would and should never imagine. Store up the best memories to get you through the times when you must be isolated from others.

Grief will arrive like a monster, an Everyman monster, but your Everyman, unique to your character and hungry for your soul.  It will be worse than any imagined under the bed or in the closet or lurking in wait for the nightlight to fade.

You will reckon with monsters. Your dad’s life’s meaning in yours. Your brother-in-law’s life. Your grandmother’s life. And the life of a baby who was never born, its heart burst from a virus before it could be. All of these lives will surge up again in yours like a giant, overwhelming question. 

What are you doing? Why haven’t you taken this gift and made of it what was meant to be made? When at last will you do this?

Now about your poem, I can only echo what Rilke wrote his first letter to a young poet friend: “You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now… I beg you to give up all that. You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now.” 

You will do all this, too.  Don’t start, and if you have, I beg you, stop!  None of that matters.

That poem has opened a door to a room you did not know existed inside you.  What you must now do is explore that room like a child explores a treasured hideaway in his grandmother’s house.  Go inside, dust the shelves, knock down cobwebs, read old books, play warped records, look at yellowed pictures, and get to work.  Inside, you will learn what you must learn, so be brave and face those lessons, some will not be easy just as some will bring you a blissful joy others won’t even know enough to wish for.  

I will be here waiting for you. When you are ready to emerge and believe in the difference you are called to make, I will be pumping my fist.


Written in response to The Young Poet’s Letter and the Go Dog Go Writing Prompt Challenge for Tuesday, March 17.

Join us at the Go Dog Go Cafe.

23 Responses to “Letter to the Young Poet, or the Into My Own Letter Where the Old Poet Responds to His Young Self (and Responds to the Go Dog Go Weekly Writing Prompt/Challenge with a Fine Cider Toast Reflection… Day Four)”

  1. ivor20

    Oh Stephen, this is both a glorious letter of self recognition and of self discovery with the importance of connecting with inner our memories, which is the very much the soul and essence of our existence……..

    “Down Through The Dark Streets”

    Down by old house
    Over the bridge
    Down through the dark streets
    Where we used to live
    Out by the cornfield
    And the sycamore trees
    Down to the water
    Will you come, Lassie please?

    Snow in the town square
    December afternoon
    Christmas lights
    A crescent moon
    A boy selling chestnuts
    Roasted and brown
    Dropping black cinders
    That hiss on the ground
    You and I stand like strangers
    In our Hokusai clothes
    Like we come from some strange country
    That nobody else knows
    And to go where the wind blows
    Are just the words of thieves
    So will you come with me, Lassie
    Will you come Lassie, please?

    There’s a place there by the river
    I never showed you before
    But when I’m far away
    That’s where I go
    Outside it’s lamplight
    High time we leave
    Will you come Lassie, please?

    The big blue sea between us
    Is thousands of miles
    It’s cruel I know
    But you just have to smile
    I’d be back for you
    If I could just believe
    That everything is right and pure
    That everything is right and pure
    That everything is right and pure
    Will you come, Lassie, please?

    Liked by 1 person

      • Stephen

        Thank you both for your comments on this letter. My creative brain works best out on its walks and this overdue response was born on one. These two paragraphs you both enjoyed formed the heart of the two messages I wanted to convey in retrospect to my young self: be prepared for grief even if it will be like a virus and adapt and change to whatever is used to inoculate it; and do not be afraid to dive into the creative life and rummage around a while, the creative is the oldest path for humanity and I think the most important. We must be brave to take it, but it is where we find the best of our humanity.

        There is a third message though. That dad pumping his fist. I need to be the unconditional father to my young self I needed. I need to be ready to embrace the young creative soul emerging.

        It’s funny, when I was a young man they might have called me an old soul. Now I am not old, but older and I am allowing my young creative soul out…

        Any rate I blather on… thank you both for reading, commenting and being so loyal. These first few days of the path to new normals have proven these will be odd times, having a loyal and consistent community of readers helps so much. Real people… grateful.


      • ivor20

        Thank you Stephen for your detailed explanation of your poem, I understand perfectly the essence of what you are saying, and again my inner self strongly resonates with your feelings.
        I’ve often wondered about my incredibly difficult journey, and why it was so…. but I am gradually learning to accept that my path is actually the essence of who I am 🌏😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • Stephen

        I am glad this has resonated. We all have our paths, but our paths run parallel and sometimes we can learn a lot from one another or maybe just be grateful to meet in a clearing and know we are not alone. Blessings to you my friend. Big ones.


  2. purplepeninportland

    Sometimes we are afraid to look inward, as if we might find unpleasantries about ourselves. Well, this is the time to scrutinize. Walk, observe, take pictures, write. Thank you for this, Stephen.

    Liked by 1 person


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