Grandparents' Conundrum

Aug 10, 2018

Today’s poem is “Grandparents’ Conundrum” by Doug Rawlings. In 1980, along with three other veterans, he began Veterans for Peace, now an international organization with 130 chapters and NGO status at the United Nations.  He worked for 27 years at the University of Maine at Farmington. He’s recently come out of retirement to teach a Peace Studies course there. 

He writes, “The poem comes from stepping into that vortex of trying to grasp at hope even though much of life in the world today dictates against that impulse. As the elders in this culture--grandparents and such--we cannot deny reality, but, at the same time, we can't give into debilitating despair. I want my granddaughters to know that no matter how the world spins out for them, no matter what they do in response to this world we have given them, I will love them for who they are. Unequivocally.”

Granparents’ Conundrum 
by Doug Rawlings

Imagine the microbiologist
ordering a filet mignon
medium rare
despite what she knows of the odd
rampaging bacterium bent on her demise

The civil engineer
cruising down the interstate
tooling along at 80 or so
despite what he knows of
the coming bridge over the Susquehanna

The physicist
slipping out of bed
pressing her toes to the floor
despite what she knows of
the gaping spaces between this and that

The Trappist monk
putting in thirty years on his knees
looking for the afterlife
despite what he knows of the cosmic forces
arrayed against his future existence

So what to say to your grandchildren
of their chances in a world
where Iraqi neurologists drive New York City cabs
where necromancers hold the keys to the national treasure
where nothing is guaranteed but your undying love

Poem copyright © 2015 Doug Rawlings. Reprinted from A G.I. In America: The Government Issue Chronicles,, 2015, by permission of Doug Rawlings.