a poem for my seventeen-year-old son

by Elizabeth de Barros

Santos, 17 senior photo_edited-1


Some advice as you go out the door:

Of life and love

Well, these have a way of shaping you

whether you want them to or not.

Matter drops its weight,

Axe and chisel come unannounced.

 Sandpaper’s rough, but it makes things smooth.

Forget rushing it. 

3-D takes time,

 as do all private wonders.



These are important.

Some will be verbal.

Let Silence cast its vote in the right direction,

your groans be heard in prayer.

There will be interjections, too —

may “Revenge!” not be one of them. 

Leave room.

Push – Pull

“Do it!”

“Don’t do it!”

each tell their stories.

Hook wires up to your heart 

to test you, 

try to steal your grades.

On your marks,

get set!

Intentionality is supposed to be a supposed thing

— but it’s not.

Count your steps.

A sentinel puts one foot in front of the other,

walks a straight line.  

Guard the honor of all men,

known and unknown. 

A watchman stays awake.


Now about salt and pepperings:

source, quality, amounts —

these matter. 

Use more or less, to taste.

Ounce for ounce,

good and bad,

all is weighed.

May the scales lean in your favor.


Obedience is the blessing,

And triumphs are held in a paper cup.

Sorrows can last a lifetime, depending.

 If you’re blessed with a broken heart,

Faith will do the mending.

 Choices will either render a man hopeless

or find him coming up over the hill, carrying the spoils.

Strength is a fountain of grace

and Hope is a well,

but fear of man is a snare.

 Walk forward on bended knee

 — backwards, if you must —

Feel the might of God

swelling in your chest. 

From Gilgal to Jericho,

take Courage 

and Faithfulness will lead you home.



A necessity.

They come ’round for a game of tackle

and pick you!

From there, 

it’s all field goals and touchdowns.

Others may drop you

for various reasons: 

 fumbles, mishaps, overthrows —

trust the ones who will catch you when you fall.

You’ll be able to count them on one hand, 

and know God sent them.

Joshua, Caleb, David, Nathan, 

your company troop —

Joseph and Daniel,  too.

And a brother is one who goes the distance.

Owe no man but the debt of love,

treat everyone well.


Of Time and Work

Here’s  what I will say: 

Work is to be done on time

then Time will work for you.

Sleep when you ought

— not too much —

an alarm clock has one purpose:

not to beg.

Up and at ’em,

Ready or not!

Morning comes early —

Sow in the dark, reap at noon.

When evening comes,

you’ll be glad you had the right tools for planting. 


The Day has come. 

Arrival for Departure. 

Run hard, run long,

Don’t stop except to rest —

He’s your breath, muscle, focus, agility, speed, momentum,

track and backbone.

Deep breath.




Always count it —

Even if it costs you everything (it will).


the goal is to break tape

and Freedom came at a price.

It still does. 

When weariness comes (it will), 

a cloud of witnesses is cheering  

for your second wind. 

Take it.


 As you go,

look straight ahead.

But first, make sure your shoes are shined.

Be strong, 

Stand firm,

Run free. 

Hold fast your crown.



© 2013 Elizabeth DeBarros