‘To David, About His Education’ a poem by Howard Nemerov

As students return to school, the conversation once again turns to the value of education. Sitting at your desk you may look back and wonder why you had to take courses that seemed to have no relevance to your current position. Or you may have figured out that all disciplines are linked, even if those connections lie just beneath the surface.

This week’s ‘Friday Poem’ comes from Harvard alum, poet laureate, and photographer, Diane Arbus‘ big brother, Howard Nemerov. It answers the question, what will you have to learn to become one of the grownups?

To David, About His Education

The world is full of mostly invisible things,
And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,
Or its nose, in a book, to find them out,
Things like the square root of Everest
Or how many times Byron goes into Texas,
Or whether the law of the excluded middle
Applies west of the Rockies. For these
And the like reasons, you have to go to school
And study books and listen to what you are told,
And sometimes try to remember. Though I don’t know
What you will do with the mean annual rainfall
On Plato’s Republic, or the calorie content
Of the Diet of Worms, such things are said to be
Good for you, and you will have to learn them
In order to become one of the grown-ups
Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,
But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world
Under his hat, which is where it belongs,
And teaches small children to do this in their turn.

Howard Nemerov, “To David, About His Education” from ‘War Stories: Poems About Long Ago and Now’.

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