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Advice to My Son
Peter Meinke

The trick is, to live your days
as if each one may be your last
(for they go fast, and young men lose their lives
in strange and unimaginable ways)
but at the same time, plan long range
(for they go slow; if you survive
the shattered windshield and the bursting shell
you will arrive
at our approximation here below
of heaven or hell).

To be specific, between the peony and the rose
plant squash and spinach, turnips and tomatoes;
beauty is nectar
and nectar, in a desert, saves,
but the stomach craves stronger sustenance
than the honied vine.
Therefore, marry a pretty girl
after seeing her mother;
Show your soul to one man,
work with another;
and always serve bread with your wine.
But son, always serve wine.


From Liquid Paper: New & Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press 1991).
Used here with the author's permission.  



Peter Meinke is the former Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg, Florida, and that state's newly named Poet Laureate. He directed the Writing Workshop at Eckerd College for 27 years, and has been writer-in-residence in dozens of schools, including Old Dominion, Davidson, and Hamilton College. His wife Jeanne has illustrated many of his books, including his popular book on writing, The Shape of Poetry, and the cover of his most recent collection, Lucky Bones. When not elsewhere, they’ve lived in the same tree-shaded cottage in St. Petersburg for almost 50 years. Learm more about Peter at



Post New Comment:
My eyes have never seen so much pog
Posted 02/03/2021 10:49 AM

Posted 02/03/2021 10:48 AM
Gilbert Allen:
Tender and touching, with no false sentiment along the way. A lovely poem!
Posted 06/18/2015 09:58 AM
Oh, this is lovely. For many, many years, I have used an essay by Meinke in my creative writing class. He practices his own advice in "What Makes Good Poetry?"
Posted 06/18/2015 09:51 AM
Larry Schug:
A poem of reality, beauty and good advice. I hope all sons heed it.
Posted 06/18/2015 08:00 AM
Fine internal rhymes interlock the lines.
Posted 06/18/2015 07:45 AM
I love this poem!!
Posted 06/18/2015 07:29 AM

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