Poem introduction

I like to write about children, especially about their talk because they say very wise things and ask very strange and wonderful questions. And also they love to play in the middle of it all frequently. So asking questions and loving to play - I sometimes think that's what education should be about. This poem is called 'Poem from a Three Year Old'.

Poem from a Three Year Old

Poem from a Three Year Old

And will the flowers die?

And will the people die?

And every day do you grow old, do I
grow old, no I'm not old, do
flowers grow old?

Old things - do you throw them out?

Do you throw old people out?

And how you know a flower that's old?

The petals fall, the petals fall from flowers,
and do the petals fall from people too,
every day more petals fall until the
floor where I would like to play I
want to play is covered with old
flowers and people all the same
together lying there with petals fallen
on the dirty floor I want to play
the floor you come and sweep
with the huge broom.

The dirt you sweep, what happens that,
what happens all the dirt you sweep
from flowers and people, what
happens all the dirt? Is all the
dirt what's left of flowers and
people, all the dirt there in a
heap under the huge broom that
sweeps everything away.

Why you work so hard, why brush
and sweep to make a heap of dirt?
And who will bring new flowers?
And who will bring new people? Who will
bring new flowers to put in water
where no petals fall on to the
floor where I would like to
play? Who will bring new flowers
that will not hang their heads
like tired old people wanting sleep?
Who will bring new flowers that
do not split and shrivel every
day? And if we have new flowers,
will we have new people too to
keep the flowers alive and give
them water?

And will the new young flowers die?

And will the new young people die?

And why?

from A Time for Voices: Selected Poems 1960-1990 (Bloodaxe, 1990), copyright © Brendan Kennelly 1990, used by permission of the author and Bloodaxe Books Ltd.

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1The Adventure of Learning

2Getting Up Early

3The Singing Girl Is Easy in Her Skill

4Sing and Be Damned To It


6Living Ghosts

7The Happy Grass


9Saint Brigid's Prayer

10Saint Augustine on God

11Children's Hospital

12Citizens of the Night

13The Horse's Head

14The Stones


16Poem from a Three Year Old

17The Visitor


19The Swimmer


21Dream of a Black Fox

22The Scarf





27The Sandwoman


29We Are Living

30The Moment of Letlive

31The Habit of Redemption

32A Restoration

33She Sees Her Own Distance

34More Dust

35The Fire is Crying

36A Half-Finished Garden

37Her Face

38A Giving

39Let It Go


41The Speech of Trees



44The Third Force

45I See You Dancing, Father

46A Glimpse of Starlings

47Clearing a Space


Books by Brendan Kennelly