Week 513: A Considered Reply To A Child, by Jonathan Price

This week a rather affecting poem by Jonathan Price (1931-1985) that contrasts the ease with which small children express their affections with the inhibitions that adults sometimes bring to the task. On this note I remember how when my daughter was five, and had just discovered the fascination of large numbers, I was for some reason explaining to her the plot of ‘King Lear’, and she couldn’t understand why Cordelia wouldn’t simply tell her daddy that she loved him. ‘I would have said I loved you one thousand and forty nine’, she said. I was touched; admittedly I couldn’t help feeling that this was a bit low on the scale according to which she had previously claimed to love strawberries ‘one hundred million trillion and one’, but it’d do to be going on with.

Jonathan Price was loosely associated with the nineteen-fifties Movement poets, and his work was praised by Philip Larkin. An exacting craftsman, he published very little, and the collected poems, entitled ‘Everything Must Go’, that appeared towards the end of his life comprise just thirty-four pieces. Perhaps as a result he is pretty much forgotten: he deserves better.

A Considered Reply to a Child

‘I love you,’ you said between two mouthfuls of pudding.
But not funny; I didn’t want to laugh at all.
Rolling three years’ experience in a ball,
You nudged it friendlily across the table.

A stranger, almost, I was flattered – no kidding.
It’s not every day I hear a thing like that;
And when I do my answer’s never pat.
I’m about nine times your age, ten times less able

To say – what you said; incapable of unloading
Plonk at someone’s feet, like a box of bricks,
A declaration. When I try, it sticks
Like fish-bones in my throat; my eyes tingle.

What’s called ‘passion’, you’ll learn, may become ‘overriding’.
But not in me it doesn’t: I’m that smart,
I can give everything and keep my heart.
Kisses are kisses. No need for souls to mingle.

Bed’s bed, what’s more, and you’d say it’s meant for sleeping;
And, believe me, you’d be absolutely right.
With luck you’ll never lie awake all night,
Someone beside you (rather like ‘crying’) weeping.

Jonathan Price

1 thought on “Week 513: A Considered Reply To A Child, by Jonathan Price

  1. I love this poem. I’ve learned it by heart. Reminded me so much of my younger self and what I was missing. Thanks for posting it. Nigel

    Sent from my iPad

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