The Jamaican poet Mervyn Morris published "Little Boy Crying" in his 2006 collection I Been There, Sort Of. The poem takes place immediately after a father has slapped his young son. Although readers aren't sure what led to this situation, it soon becomes clear that the father regrets the way he has treated his son. It's also clear that the boy is able to sense this regret, though this does nothing to make him feel better. In this way, the poem is an exploration of the complex dynamics of a father-son relationship characterized by love, resentment, and regret.
Your mouth contorting ...
... with three-year-old frustration,
your bright eyes ...
... quick slap struck.
The ogre towers ...
... at last.
You hate him, ...
... trap him in.
You cannot understand, ...
... behind that mask.
This fierce man ...
... you should learn.
You must not ... of the rain.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Poems About Fatherhood — Check out the Poetry Foundation's collection of poems that, like "Little Boy Crying," center around the topic of fatherhood.
Morris Gives a Reading — Watch Mervyn Morris read some of his poetry aloud.
More About Morris — Check out this overview of Mervyn Morris's life and work, including a number of recordings of the poet reading his own work (including "Little Boy Crying").
Poems About Childhood — Take a look at this overview of poems that, also like "Little Boy Crying," are concerned with childhood and growing up.
1Your mouth contorting in brief spite and hurt,
2your laughter metamorphosed into howls,
3your frame so recently relaxed now tight
4with three-year-old frustration, your bright eyes
5swimming tears, splashing your bare feet,
6you stand there angling for a moment’s hint
7of guilt or sorrow for the quick slap struck.
8The ogre towers above you, that grim giant,
9empty of feeling, a colossal cruel,
10soon victim of the tale’s conclusion, dead
11at last. You hate him, you imagine
12chopping clean the tree he’s scrambling down
13or plotting deeper pits to trap him in.
14You cannot understand, not yet,
15the hurt your easy tears can scald him with,
16nor guess the wavering hidden behind that mask.
17This fierce man longs to lift you, curb your sadness
18with piggy-back or bull fight, anything,
19but dare not ruin the lessons you should learn.
20You must not make a plaything of the rain.