Original poem reprinted online here: "Ave Maria" by Frank O'Hara
Originally read: May 14, 2013
More information about the Poet: Frank O'Hara
Prayer for a people. Usually when I think of prayer, I think of the more internal that's told by a group of people. Especially when this poem is titled, "Ave Maria" or "Hail Mary." What this poem does is focus it's prayer outward and to the personal. Who is the speaker addressing? "Mothers of America," and "kids."
The disjointed lines add a sense of free-form connection between mother and kids and the speaker's perspective in both. In the first half of the poem is the impact of having kids search the world on their own, and the speaker makes good claims, "it's true that fresh air is good for the body / but what about the soul / that grows in darkness, embossed by silvery images." Go outside or the soul will fall. How about these lines, "when you grow old as grow old you must / they won't hate you/ they won't criticize you they won't know." If you give your child freedom they'll be grateful.
The further the poem progresses, the experiences the kids will be thanking their mother for become slightly serious and slightly funnier, "they may even be grateful to you / for their first sexual experience / which cost you a quarter / and didn't upset the peaceful home." Past me wrote, "break of the mundane." But to elaborate on this point, the speaker qualifiers this experience with "may" so there's a chance of not being grateful or being grateful; however, the speaker sets up a sort of expose. That kids and mothers want is a "peaceful home," and in order to do so ignorance has to be played by both parties to each other "mother" and "kid" Why is this important?
"If nobody does pick them up in the movies / they won't know the difference" This is the reference focusing on relationships based on movies and real life. So the poem goes to a sort of critique that kids need to experience and hold secrets to know the difference between fabrication and reality -- under a guise of a poem that's fabricating a "prayer" to a presumed sheltered audience.
Then the speaker states the consequences of kids staying home, "hanging around the yard / or up in their room / hating you / prematurely since you won't have done anything mean yet / except keeping them from the darker joys." Now there's a sense that this poem "propagates" sin actually -- the speaker is more enlightening the mothers. If the home is overly peaceful -- too much like a movie, the kids will only see the mother as only a saint. There is premature (meaning there will be hatred later on) hatred because "you" haven't done anything horribly mean (you arent' human [yes human beings do horribly mean things]) and keep them from darker joys.
Note how the dark is also defined here be the usage of darkness in the previous line "The soul that grows in darkness." So on top of the whole sin thing (which is too prominent of an allusion to let go of), the poem also qualifies the darkness to the soul which, if it cannot experience "joy" can surely have "premature hate."
The speaker then intrudes in the poem, "so don't blame me if you won't take this advice / and the family breaks up." This is the result.
However, the afterword focuses back to the core of the poem, "your children grow old and blind in front of a TV set / seeing / movies you wouldn't let them see when they were young" The mind continues and regresses to the idealistic view of things. It's like a continuous media affirmation of a life that could've happened.