Poem: A Six-Year-Old’s Lesson

A Six-Year-Old’s Lesson

I can remember one of my father’s last lucid moments.
As if he knew there would not be many left, he asked
me the most valuable lesson I had learned from him.

You might have thought it difficult, that question.
The list is unbearably long. He had a teacher in him,
with a raconteur’s heart.

You might have thought it difficult, but it was not.
I was six. We were in an antique shop, as we often were.
I had all the admonishments you give a six-year-old.

Not to touch….. anything. So of course, I did.
Enchanted, my hands had to hold all my eyes beheld
as if they were a talisman, a thing of power.

In their way, they are. But that was a lesson for a later date.
My lesson began as the tea set that so captivated me
slipped from my fingers and broke,
Two teapots and a cup before the crash ended.

You know the rule. You break. You buy.
or in my case, my father buys. We scooped the parts
in a box with the rest and took it home.

Uncharacteristically, my father was not angry.
Perhaps my face of horror, full of my sin, softened his heart.
He was gentle. He was kind

and when we arrived home,
he taught me the art of broken china. It takes patience
to do it well. And six-year-olds lack patience.

I still have the tea set. I am not sure it will hold water.
But it is mine now, and so is the lesson.
That we break more than we realize sometimes,

but we fix more than things when we are kind,
making the broken far, far more precious.

About this poem

True stories, both of them.

I still have the tea set, but it is packed away. So the picture is (legal) stock photography.



  1. I love the story and appreciate the lesson. It reminded me of another broken coffee cup and my grandfather’s love and grace.

    Thanks, Tom.

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