Kids, Don’t Follow

Photograph by Jose Padua

Kids, don’t follow stars, don’t follow
wise men or women. Don’t follow the
folds on a woman’s forehead
or the muscles on a strong man’s arm.
Don’t follow those who are faster than flies,
don’t follow those who are slower
than extinct flightless birds. Don’t follow
the classmate who has all the answers
without having to even read the book,
don’t follow the girl who sits in the corner
staring at the table covered with dead flowers
left over from a stranger’s wedding. Don’t wish
for the great wealth of successful businessmen,
don’t sit and do nothing because you’re drunk
and listening to the ticking of a clock when
your house is on fire. Don’t follow the guides
you find in paperback books with the sort
of glossy covers you used to find
on old porn magazines, don’t follow
the people who tell you not to.
Don’t follow the roads that have
already been paved for you, don’t follow
the damp grass and dirt that surrounds them,
especially if you live in a fucking swamp.
Don’t follow those who are too eager
to set you straight, don’t follow those
who scratch their chins and feel their nipples
when you ask for help jump starting your car.
And of course don’t follow heroes
with automatic weapons, don’t follow anti-heroes
with baby grand pianos. Don’t follow angels
with white feather wings who fly through clouds
with wide beatific smiles on their faces,
don’t drink straight from the milk carton,
for Christ’s sake get a cup. Above all,
and above this, do not follow unsolicited advice.
Ignore those who say they know what’s going on.
Do not listen to them, or to me, or to this,
kids. Just remember that what you’re
reading, or hearing, right now, is a poem,
and that this poem is changing your life.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua

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