Phyllis McGinley’s “Reflections at Dawn”

Phyllis McGinley

Phyllis McGinley won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1961, but does anyone remember?  She wrote “light verse,” the critics say.  Indeed!  Do we prefer “heavy verse”?    Her poems are are so buoyant and witty that she captures the mood and mode of suburban women’s lives.   I wish I had been of her generation so we could have shared  irreverent observations.

“Reflections at Dawn” by Phyllis McGinley

I wish I owned a Dior dress
Made to my order out of satin.
I wish I weighed a little less
And could read Latin.
Had perfect pitch or matching pearls,
A better head for street directions,
And seven daughters, all with curls
And fair complexions.
I wish I’d tan instead of burn.
But most, on all the stars that glisten,
I wish at parties I could learn
to sit and listen.

I wish I didn’t talk so much at parties.
It isn’t that I want to hear
My voice assaulting every ear,
Uprising loud and firm and clear
Above the cocktail clatter.
It’s simply, once a doorbells’ rung,
(I’ve been like this since I was young)
Some madness overtake my tongue
And I begin to chatter.

Buffet, ball, banquet, quilting bee,
Wherever conversation’s flowing,
Why must I feel it falls on me
To keep things going?
Though ladies cleverer than I
Can loll in silence, soft and idle,
Whatever topic gallops by,
I seize its bridle,
Hold forth on art, dissect the stage,
Or babble like a kindergart’ner
Of politics till I enrage
My dinner partner.

I wish I did’nt talk so much at parties.
When hotly boil the arguments,
Ah? would I had the common sense
To sit demurely on a fence
And let who will be vocal,
Instead of plunging in the fray
With my opinions on display
Till all the gentlemen edge away
To catch an early local

Oh! there is many a likely boon
That fate might flip me from her griddle.
I wish that I could sleep till noon
And play the fiddle,
Or dance a tour jete’ so light
It would not shake a single straw down.
But when I ponder how last night
I laid the law down.
More than to have the Midas touch
Or critics’ praise, however hearty,
I wish I didn’t talk so much,
I wish I didn’t talk so much,
I wish I didn’t talk so much,
When I am at a party. 

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