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To a Daughter Leaving Home

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

—Linda Pastan

from The Imperfect Paradise, 1988
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, NY

Copyright 1988 by Linda Pastan.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. from The Imperfect Paradise. Copyright 1988 by Linda Pastan. For further permissions information, contact Linda Pastan,

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Poet Linda Pastan (1932- ) was raised in New York City but has lived for most of her life in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, DC. Linda Pastan is the author of over a dozen poetry collections, including Insomnia: Poems (W. W. Norton and Company, 2015).

Learn more about Linda Pastan at The Poetry Foundation.