by Frank O’Hara
Mothers of America let your kids go to the movies! get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to it’s true that fresh air is good for the body but what about the soul that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images and when you grow old as grow old you must they won’t hate you they won’t criticize you they won’t know they’ll be in some glamorous country they first saw on a Saturday afternoon or playing hookey they may even be grateful to you for their first sexual experience which only cost you a quarter and didn’t upset the peaceful home they will know where candy bars come from and gratuitous bags of popcorn as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it’s over with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is in the Heaven on Earth Bldg near the Williamsburg Bridge oh mothers you will have made the little tykes so happy because if nobody does pick them up in the movies they won’t know the difference and if somebody does it’ll be sheer gravy and they’ll have been truly entertained either way instead of hanging around the yard or up in their room hating you prematurely since you won’t have done anything horribly mean yet except keeping them from the darker joys it’s unforgivable the latter so don’t blame me if you won’t take this advice and the family breaks up and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set seeing movies you wouldn’t let them see when they were young
This poem is whimsically written, but behind the rhetoric, there is some meaning. You can’t keep your kids young forever. Sometimes we have to venture into the wilderness to grow up and find ourselves. This place is the movies. (as it was in the 20’s) in the dark, we are fascinated by the glamour of it all: the moving picture, the salty popcorn, the hidden handhold (or maybe a little more). I remember my first movie date. Our parents dropped us off, but it still felt so grown up to be left alone, to be “on our own”. Sure, mom and dad were just a phone call or a restaurant away, but we felt that “fresh air” O’Hara is talking about. It’s scary to think that by keeping kids home, you risk “the family break[ing] up and your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set seeing movies you wouldn’t let them see when they were young”. Going to the movies is necessary. Leaving the nest…it happens. For me, I’m about to “go to the movies” in a big way -college.
I’m confounded by the line: “get them out of the house so they won’t know what you’re up to”…what could mothers of America be up to?
ADAM AND EVE :LOSS OF INNOCENCE