Famous Family Poems
Feel the Power of Family through These Classic Poems
To be part of a family is to be in a relationship. There is an opportunity for a closeness and trust that cannot occur outside family. With this possibility for closeness is the possibility of hatred and estrangement. It is not easy to maintain positive relationships with those that we are naturally closest to. There are tensions that exist between family members that are not present in other relationships. Being in close proximity means that you know a person's great attributes as well as their faults. Maintaining family relationships are a tremendous challenge.
30 Poems about Family by Famous Poets
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor-
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps.
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now-
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.Featured Shared Story
I was not a very good student when I was in school. I did the minimal amount of work required, retained little and barely paid attention. In 1965, my 8th grade English teacher read MOTHER TO...
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day's occupations,
That is known as the Children's Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.
From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.
A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.
A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!
They climb up into my turret
O'er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.
They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!
Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!
I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!Featured Shared Story
Beautifully written...loved every word of it. So pure and wonderful!
3. Life's Scars
They say the world is round, and yet
I often think it square,
So many little hurts we get
From corners here and there.
But one great truth in life I've found,
While journeying to the West-
The only folks who really wound
Are those we love the best.
The man you thoroughly despise
Can rouse your wrath, 'tis true;
Annoyance in your heart will rise
At things mere strangers do;
But those are only passing ills;
This rule all lives will prove;
The rankling wound which aches and thrills
Is dealt by hands we love.
The choicest garb, the sweetest grace,
Are oft to strangers shown;
The careless mien, the frowning face,
Are given to our own.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.
Love does not grow on every tree,
Nor true hearts yearly bloom.
Alas for those who only see
This cut across a tomb!
But, soon or late, the fact grows plain
To all through sorrow's test:
The only folks who give us pain
Are those we love the best.Featured Shared Story
The writer has hit the nail on the head. We treat strangers with grace and family with scorn. Our family will disapprove of our life choices, whereas strangers will not. A depressed soul...
The stick-together families are happier by far
Than the brothers and the sisters who take separate highways are.
The gladdest people living are the wholesome folks who make
A circle at the fireside that no power but death can break.
And the finest of conventions ever held beneath the sun
Are the little family gatherings when the busy day is done.
There are rich folk, there are poor folk, who imagine they are wise,
And they're very quick to shatter all the little family ties.
Each goes searching after pleasure in his own selected way,
Each with strangers likes to wander, and with strangers likes to play.
But it's bitterness they harvest, and it's empty joy they find,
For the children that are wisest are the stick-together kind.
There are some who seem to fancy that for gladness they must roam,
That for smiles that are the brightest they must wander far from home.
That the strange friend is the true friend, and they travel far astray
they waste their lives in striving for a joy that's far away,
But the gladdest sort of people, when the busy day is done,
Are the brothers and the sisters who together share their fun.
It's the stick-together family that wins the joys of earth,
That hears the sweetest music and that finds the finest mirth;
It's the old home roof that shelters all the charm that life can give;
There you find the gladdest play-ground, there the happiest spot to live.
And, O weary, wandering brother, if contentment you would win,
Come you back unto the fireside and be comrade with your kin.Featured Shared Story
My husband was in the Navy when we met. We were from different states. When he was discharged, we decided to live in a state that was between our two states, making our travels home about...
we had goldfish and they circled around and around
in the bowl on the table near the heavy drapes
covering the picture window and
my mother, always smiling, wanting us all
to be happy, told me, ‘be happy Henry!’
and she was right: it’s better to be happy if you
but my father continued to beat her and me several times a week while
raging inside his 6—foot—two frame because he couldn’t
understand what was attacking him from within.
my mother, poor fish,
wanting to be happy, beaten two or three times a
week, telling me to be happy: 'Henry, smile!
why don’t you ever smile?'
and then she would smile, to show me how, and it was the
saddest smile I ever saw
one day the goldfish died, all five of them,
they floated on the water, on their sides, their
eyes still open,
and when my father got home he threw them to the cat
there on the kitchen floor and we watched as my mother
It is true
I was created in you.
It is also true
That you were created for me.
I owned your voice.
It was shaped and tuned to soothe me.
Your arms were molded
Into a cradle to hold me, to rock me.
The scent of your body was the air
Perfumed for me to breathe.
During those early, dearest days
I did not dream that you had
A large life which included me,
For I had a life
Which was only you.
Time passed steadily and drew us apart.
I was unwilling.
I feared if I let you go
You would leave me eternally.
You smiled at my fears, saying
I could not stay in your lap forever.
That one day you would have to stand
And where would I be?
You smiled again.
I did not.
Without warning you left me,
But you returned immediately.
You left again and returned,
I admit, quickly,
But relief did not rest with me easily.
You left again, but again returned.
You left again, but again returned.
Each time you reentered my world
You brought assurance.
Slowly I gained confidence.
You thought you know me,
But I did know you,
You thought you were watching me,
But I did hold you securely in my sight,
Recording every moment,
Memorizing your smiles, tracing your frowns.
In your absence
I rehearsed you,
The way you had of singing
On a breeze,
While a sob lay
At the root of your song.
The way you posed your head
So that the light could caress your face
When you put your fingers on my hand
And your hand on my arm,
I was blessed with a sense of health,
Of strength and very good fortune.
You were always
the heart of happiness to me,
Bringing nougats of glee,
Sweets of open laughter.
During the years when you knew nothing
And I knew everything, I loved you still.
Condescendingly of course,
From my high perch
Of teenage wisdom.
I grew older and
Was stunned to find
How much knowledge you had gleaned.
And so quickly.
Mother, I have learned enough now
To know I have learned nearly nothing.
On this day
When mothers are being honored,
Let me thank you
That my selfishness, ignorance, and mockery
Did not bring you to
Discard me like a broken doll
Which had lost its favor.
I thank you that
You still find something in me
To cherish, to admire and to love.
I thank you, Mother.
I love you.
7. Only A Dad
Only a dad, with a tired face,
Coming home from the daily race,
Bringing little of gold or fame,
To show how well he has played the game,
But glad in his heart that his own rejoice
To see him come, and to hear his voice.
Only a dad, with a brood of four,
One of ten million men or more.
Plodding along in the daily strife,
Bearing the whips and the scorns of life,
With never a whimper of pain or hate,
For the sake of those who at home await.
Only a dad, neither rich nor proud,
Merely one of the surging crowd
Toiling, striving from day to day,
Facing whatever may come his way,
Silent, whenever the harsh condemn,
And bearing it all for the love of them.
Only a dad, but he gives his all
To smooth the way for his children small,
Doing, with courage stern and grim,
The deeds that his father did for him.
This is the line that for him I pen,
Only a dad, but the best of men.Featured Shared Story
Hello everyone. It’s a Monday morning, and I’ve just begun working, but somewhere in my mind throughout the day I keep remembering my dad and his deeds. No matter how tired I become, I still...
8. On Aging
When you see me sitting quietly,
Like a sack left on the shelf,
Don’t think I need your chattering.
I’m listening to myself.
Hold! Stop! Don’t pity me!
Hold! Stop your sympathy!
Understanding if you got it,
Otherwise I’ll do without it!
When my bones are stiff and aching,
And my feet won’t climb the stair,
I will only ask one favor:
Don’t bring me no rocking chair.
When you see me walking, stumbling,
Don’t study and get it wrong.
‘Cause tired don’t mean lazy
And every goodbye ain’t gone.
I’m the same person I was back then,
A little less hair, a little less chin,
A lot less lungs and much less wind.
But ain’t I lucky I can still breathe in.Featured Shared Story
Reading this poem was very heartfelt and personal. Maya Angelou has always been my favorite author of all times, but reading this particular poem reminds me of my grandmother who I was lucky...
BEFORE you came, my little lad,
I used to think that I was good,
Some vicious habits, too, I had,
But wouldn't change them if I could.
I held my head up high and said:
'I'm all that I have need to be,
It matters not what path I tread,'
But that was ere you came to me.
I treated lightly sacred things,
And went my way in search of fun,
Upon myself I kept no strings,
And gave no heed to folly done.
I gave myself up to the fight
For worldly wealth and earthly fame,
And sought advantage, wrong or right,
But that was long before you came.
But now you sit across from me,
Your big brown eyes are opened wide,
And every deed I do you see,
And, O, I dare hot step aside.
I've shaken loose from habits bad,
And what is wrong I've come to dread,
Because I know, my little lad,
That you will follow where I tread.
I want those eyes to glow with pride,
In me I want those eyes to see
The while we wander side by side
The sort of man I'd have you be.
And so I'm striving to be good
With all my might, that you may know
When this great world is understood,
What pleasures are worth while below.
I see life in a different light
From what I did before you came,
Then anything that pleased seemed right;
But you are here to bear my name,
And you are looking up to me
With those big eyes from day to day,
And I'm determined not to be
The means of leading you astray.
Home is the place where the laughter should ring,
And man should be found at his best.
Let the cares of the day be as great as they may,
The night has been fashioned for rest.
So leave at the door when the toiling is o'er
All the burdens of worktime behind,
And just be a dad to your girl or your lad--
A dad of the rollicking kind.
The office is made for the tasks you must face;
It is built for the work you must do;
You may sit there and sigh as your cares pile up high,
And no one may criticize you;
You may worry and fret as you think of your debt,
You may grumble when plans go astray,
But when it comes night, and you shut your desk tight,
Don't carry the burdens away.
Keep daytime for toil and the nighttime for play,
Work as hard as you choose in the town,
But when the day ends, and the darkness descends,
Just forget that you're wearing a frown--
Go home with a smile! Oh, you'll find it worth while;
Go home light of heart and of mind;
Go home and be glad that you're loved as a dad,
A dad of the fun-loving kind.
You can boast your round of pleasures, praise the sound of popping corks,
Where the orchestra is playing to the rattle of the forks,
And your after-opera dinner you may think superbly fine,
But that can’t compare, I’m certain, to the joy that’s always mine
When I reach my little dwelling—source, of all sincere delight—
And I prowl around the pantry in the waning hours of night.
When my business, or my pleasure, has detained me until late,
And it’s midnight, say, or after, when I reach my own estate,
Though I’m weary with my toiling I don’t hustle up to bed,
For the inner man is hungry and he’s anxious to be fed,
Then I feel a thrill of glory from my head down to my feet
As I prowl around the pantry after something good to eat.
Oft I hear a call above me: ‘Goodness gracious, come to bed!’
And I know that I’ve disturbed her by my overeager tread,
But I’ve found a glass of jelly and some bread and butter, too,
And a bit of cold fried chicken and I answer: ‘When I’m through!’
Oh, there’s no cafe that better serves my precious appetite
Than the pantry in our kitchen when I get home late at night.
You may boast your shining silver, and the linen and the flowers,
And the music and the laughter and the lights that hang in showers,
You may have your cafe table with its brilliant array,
But it doesn’t charm yours truly when I’m on my homeward way,
For a greater joy awaits me, as I hunger for a bite—
Just the joy of pantry-prowling in the middle of the night.
My father knows the proper way
The nation should be run;
He tells us children every day
Just what should now be done.
He knows the way to fix the trusts,
He has a simple plan;
But if the furnace needs repairs,
We have to hire a man.
My father, in a day or two
Could land big thieves in jail;
There's nothing that he cannot do,
He knows no word like "fail."
"Our confidence" he would restore,
Of that there is no doubt;
But if there is a chair to mend,
We have to send it out.
All public questions that arise,
He settles on the spot;
He waits not till the tumult dies,
But grabs it while it's hot.
In matters of finance he can
Tell Congress what to do;
But, O, he finds it hard to meet
His bills as they fall due.
It almost makes him sick to read
The things law-makers say;
Why, father's just the man they need,
He never goes astray.
All wars he'd very quickly end,
As fast as I can write it;
But when a neighbor starts a fuss,
'Tis mother has to fight it.
In conversation father can
Do many wondrous things;
He's built upon a wiser plan
Than presidents or kings.
He knows the ins and outs of each
And every deep transaction;
We look to him for theories,
But look to ma for action.
13. My Papa's Waltz
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother's countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.
14. Men At Forty
Men at forty
Learn to close softly
The doors to rooms they will not be
Coming back to.
At rest on a stair landing,
They feel it
Moving beneath them now like the deck of a ship,
Though the swell is gentle.
And deep in mirrors
The face of the boy as he practices trying
His father’s tie there in secret
And the face of that father,
Still warm with the mystery of lather.
They are more fathers than sons themselves now.
Something is filling them, something
That is like the twilight sound
Of the crickets, immense,
Filling the woods at the foot of the slope
Behind their mortgaged houses.
Said the little boy, sometimes I drop my spoon.
Said the little old man, I do that too.
The little boy whispered, I wet my pants.
I do too, laughed the old man.
Said the little boy, I often cry.
The old man nodded. So do I.
But worst of all, said the boy,
it seems grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
I know what you mean, said the little old man.Featured Shared Story
I admit I didn't know Shel Silverstein until I bought a couple of sheets of stamps with his name on each stamp and a silly little sketch of a cartoonish little girl. "Who is Shel...
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist's appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist's waiting room.
It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people,
arctics and overcoats,
lamps and magazines.
My aunt was inside
what seemed like a long time
and while I waited I read
the National Geographic
(I could read) and carefully
studied the photographs:
the inside of a volcano,
black, and full of ashes;
then it was spilling over
in rivulets of fire.
Osa and Martin Johnson
dressed in riding breeches,
laced boots, and pith helmets.
A dead man slung on a pole
--"Long Pig," the caption said.
Babies with pointed heads
wound round and round with string;
black, naked women with necks
wound round and round with wire
like the necks of light bulbs.
Their breasts were horrifying.
I read it right straight through.
I was too shy to stop.
And then I looked at the cover:
the yellow margins, the date.
Suddenly, from inside,
came an oh! of pain
--Aunt Consuelo's voice--
not very loud or long.
I wasn't at all surprised;
even then I knew she was
a foolish, timid woman.
I might have been embarrassed,
but wasn't. What took me
completely by surprise
was that it was me:
my voice, in my mouth.
Without thinking at all
I was my foolish aunt,
I--we--were falling, falling,
our eyes glued to the cover
of the National Geographic,
I said to myself: three days
and you'll be seven years old.
I was saying it to stop
the sensation of falling off
the round, turning world.
into cold, blue-black space.
But I felt: you are an I,
you are an Elizabeth,
you are one of them.
Why should you be one, too?
I scarcely dared to look
to see what it was I was.
I gave a sidelong glance
--I couldn't look any higher--
at shadowy gray knees,
trousers and skirts and boots
and different pairs of hands
lying under the lamps.
I knew that nothing stranger
had ever happened, that nothing
stranger could ever happen.
Why should I be my aunt,
or me, or anyone?
boots, hands, the family voice
I felt in my throat, or even
the National Geographic
and those awful hanging breasts--
held us all together
or made us all just one?
How--I didn't know any
word for it--how "unlikely". . .
How had I come to be here,
like them, and overhear
a cry of pain that could have
got loud and worse but hadn't?
The waiting room was bright
and too hot. It was sliding
beneath a big black wave,
another, and another.
Then I was back in it.
The War was on. Outside,
in Worcester, Massachusetts,
were night and slush and cold,
and it was still the fifth
of February, 1918.
It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home,
A heap o' sun an' shadder, an' ye sometimes have t' roam
Afore ye really 'preciate the things ye lef' behind,
An' hunger fer 'em somehow, with 'em allus on yer mind.
It don't make any differunce how rich ye get t' be,
How much yer chairs an' tables cost, how great yer luxury;
It ain't home t' ye, though it be the palace of a king,
Until somehow yer soul is sort o' wrapped round everything.
Home ain't a place that gold can buy or get up in a minute;
Afore it's home there's got t' be a heap o' livin' in it;
Within the walls there's got t' be some babies born, and then
Right there ye've got t' bring 'em up t' women good, an' men;
And gradjerly as time goes on, ye find ye wouldn't part
With anything they ever used — they've grown into yer heart:
The old high chairs, the playthings, too, the little shoes they wore
Ye hoard; an' if ye could ye'd keep the thumb-marks on the door.
Ye've got t' weep t' make it home, ye've got t' sit an' sigh
An' watch beside a loved one's bed, an' know that Death is nigh;
An' in the stillness o' the night t' see Death's angel come,
An' close the eyes o' her that smiled, an' leave her sweet voice dumb.
Fer these are scenes that grip the heart, an' when yer tears are dried,
Ye find the home is dearer than it was, an' sanctified;
An' tuggin' at ye always are the pleasant memories
o' her that was an' is no more—ye can't escape from these.
Ye've got t' sing an' dance fer years, ye've got t' romp an' play,
An' learn t' love the things ye have by usin' 'em each day;
Even the roses 'round the porch must blossom year by year
Afore they 'come a part o' ye, suggestin' someone dear
Who used t' love 'em long ago, an' trained 'em jes t' run
The way they do, so's they would get the early mornin' sun;
Ye've got t' love each brick an' stone from cellar up t' dome:
It takes a heap o' livin' in a house t' make it home.Featured Shared Story
"Home" seems to capture so many concepts that both test families and bond them together. I heard this poem read by my aunts and uncles many times at family gatherings. It became ingrained in...
19. Old Folks Laugh
They have spent their
content of simpering,
holding their lips this
and that way, winding
the lines between
their brows. Old folks
allow their bellies to jiggle like slow
rise up and spill
over any way they want.
When old folks laugh, they free the world.
They turn slowly, slyly knowing
the best and the worst
Saliva glistens in
the corners of their mouths,
their heads wobble
on brittle necks, but
are filled with memories.
When old folks laugh, they consider the promise
of dear painless death, and generously
forgive life for happening
A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
"Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
"Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy."
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.
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