Table of Contents
This poem talks about what a person wants when they ask someone to listen to them. They just want people to hear them out, but instead, they are met with advice or rejection. The poet explains how these things might hurt the person who just wants a listener. The poem is written in free verse.
When I – May Seem
The speaker says that when he asks someone to listen to him, and they start giving him advice, they have not done what he asked. When he asks someone to listen to him and they begin to tell him why he shouldn’t feel that way, they are trampling on his feelings. When he asks someone to listen to him and they feel they have to do something to solve his problem, they have failed him, as strange as that may seem. The speaker lists out the different ways that people might act when he asks them to listen to him, and how they might hurt his feelings.
Listen – Helpless
He says that all he asks is that these people listen. He does not want them to talk to him or do something, he just wants them to hear him. Advice is cheap because 20 cents will get us both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper. We can buy a newspaper containing both the renowned advice columns known as Dear Abby and Billy Graham for just 20 cents. So, advice is not very costly. And the speaker can solve his problems by himself, he is not helpless. He might be discouraged and faltering, but he is not helpless.
When You – Behind them
The speaker says that when someone does something for him that he can and needs to do for himself, they contribute to his fear and inadequacy. So, they are actually not helping him out. But when they accept as a simple fact that he feels what he feels, no matter how irrational it is, he can stop trying to convince them and instead try understanding what is behind that irrational feeling. And when that’s clear, the answers to the speaker’s problems become obvious and he does not need advice. Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them.
Perhaps – To You
The speaker thinks that perhaps that’s why prayer works for some people sometimes- because God is mute and cannot speak to us. So, he doesn’t give advice or try to fix things. God just listens and lets us work it out for ourselves. So, the speaker requests people to listen to him, and just hear him.
And if they want to talk, they should wait a minute for their turn, and he will listen to them too. So, we must not just expect people to listen to us without listening to them too. However, when we ask them to listen to us, they must listen without talking about their own problems first. Their turn will come soon.
This poem teaches us how to be good listeners and help people when they are going through a hard time. We must put their feelings first and hear them out, instead of advising them. They should be allowed to understand and solve their problems by themselves. We must just play the role of a good listener when we are asked to listen to someone.