Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Finalist: Ballade (Not Ballad) Contest: Susan McLean

Ballade of Useful Advice

Some lessons in life are clear from the start:
if you pray for a snow day, it never snows;
toys and families fall apart;
umbrellas don’t help when a stiff wind blows;
a wart starts small, yet it always grows.
As Mom advised me when I was a tyke,
every “free gift” has its quid pro quos,
and you never forget how to fall off a bike.

It isn’t shrewd to reveal you’re smart,
for an envious friend makes the worst of foes.
What doesn’t make sense, if you call it art,
will impress your teachers and win at shows.
From puberty on, you’ll observe that those
who desire you are seldom the ones you like.
You’ll give one yes to a dozen noes,
but you never forget how to fall off a bike.

It’s not the rejection that breaks your heart,
but the way that happiness comes, then goes.
The path to contentment is not on a chart.
The banker reaps what the saver sows.
When visiting Paris, you never suppose
that the government workers will go on strike
and every sight in the town will close.
But you never forget how to fall off a bike.

The truest wisdom, as anyone knows,
you learn before studying Intro to Psych:
you’ll have time to relax when you decompose,
and you never forget how to fall off a bike.

Susan McLean

Susan McLean is an English professor at Southwest Minnesota State University. Her poems have appeared often in Light, Lighten Up Online, Measure, Mezzo Cammin, and elsewhere.

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