The Question


Why didn’t you just stay home?
         Once you were a carrier of both child and soul
         But when you became a self
                  You bundled them up
         And took them out of the city limits.
You lacked the capacity for carrying so much.

Still, you wanted to rebuild your village
          Out of the pieces that shine and remind you
How safe and happy you were on its park benches
On days of no school.
          Why did you leave your native country
          To become a different kind of being:
          A realist
Who can recognize and classify the pieces of the lost.
          To be the only one!

It’s true they sparkle as they vanish
And finding them lets you know you are credible,
          At home in the world.

Fanny Howe, excerpt from the poem “The Question,” from her book The Lyrics

An acerbic, difficult poem. Why did you leave childhood? Why did you go to the city to participate in its plunder?