Politics Magazine

Some Advice for Poor Angus from Robert Pinsky

Posted on the 24 June 2011 by Erictheblue

Our eight-year-old and I have evolving bedtime rituals.  The current one involves Shel Silverstein.  She has his book of children's poems, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and we take turns reading aloud our "favorites," first her, then me, then her, then me, and so on, till I put an end to it.  Her favorites tend to be long ones, so as to extend her day.  I actually have only one favorite, "Poor Angus," which goes like this:

Oh what do you do, poor Angus,
When hunger makes you cry?
"I fix myself an omelet, sir,
Of fluffy clouds and sky."
Oh what do you wear, poor Angus,
When winds blow down the hills?
"I sew myself a warm cloak, sir,
Of hope and daffodils."
Oh who do you love, poor Angus,
When Catherine's left the moor?
"Ah, then, sir, then's the only time
I feel I'm really poor."

I think I like "Poor Angus" mainly because it reminds me of this poem, by Robert Pinsky, which I like quite a lot more:

Samurai Song
When I had no roof I made
Audacity my roof. When I had
No supper my eyes dined.
When I had no eyes I listened.
When I had no ears I thought.
When I had no thought I waited.
When I had no father I made
Care my father. When I had
No mother I embraced order.
When I had no friend I made
Quiet my friend. When I had no
Enemy I opposed my body.
When I had no temple I made
My voice my temple. I have
No priest, my tongue is my choir.
When I have no means fortune
Is my means. When I have
Nothing, death will be my fortune.
Need is my tactic, detachment
Is my strategy. When I had
No lover I courted my sleep.

Here is Pinsky himself performing the poem in an elevator. 


Fittingly austere.  Poor Angus needs to learn to court his sleep. 

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