Poetry Response Number 8

Flora Wang

Ms. Gala

AP Literature (Period 0)

6 January 2012


PR 8



“To a Daughter Leaving Home”

by Linda Pastan


When I taught you

at eight to ride

a bicycle, loping along

beside you

as you wobbled away

on two round wheels,

my own mouth rounding

in surprise when you pulled

ahead down the curved

path of the park

I kept waiting

for the thud

of your crash as I

sprinted to catch up

while you grew

smaller, more breakable

with distance,

pumping, pumping

for your life, screaming

with laughter,

the hair flapping

behind you like a

handkerchief waving



      Written in broken free verse with panting breaks, Linda Pastan’s “To a Daughter Leaving Home” equates a daughter’s departure into the outside world with a learning to ride a bike. Pastan’s speedy then abruptly ended poem reflects themes of parenthood, departure from home, and the invisible bond of family.

     Just as she jogged along with her daughter, the reader can imagine the narrator panting at each break in the line. The mother is surprised at how her daughter successfully rode down the path. She tries catching up as her daughter catches speed, not only does the reader detect breathless running, but speed as well. For example, “pumping, pumping,” and “screaming,” “flapping” creates a parallelism that increases the momentum and volume, like wind beating at one’s ears. The poem’s speed and excitement mirrors that of children as they grow into adults, seizing the reigns of opportunity and individualism. At the same time, parents apprehensively follow, waiting for “the thud of [their children’s] crash.”

     Before the departure, the mother identifies the daughter’s hair like a handkerchief. This simile may suggest the daughter is married, for brides are often pictured waving goodbye to her previous family before riding off with her groom. Then again, since grown up women–versus little girls–carry handkerchiefs, the simile may simply imply that the daughter is grown and leaving home.




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