A Person/ A Paper/ A Promise

Today, I was directed to this wonderful a quote from the movie “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by a friend of mine. The quote says “We only accept the love we think we deserve”. I did a bit more research about the movie and got to know that it contains a lot of very eloquent lines and beautiful excerpts. The one which I liked the most was this poem by Earl Reum called “A Person/A Paper/A Promise”. It is a very beautiful yet simple poem about a guy who is very good at writing poetry. The poem defines the various phases of the life of that kid, and each style of poetry he writes depicts the kind of life he is living at that moment.

A Person A Poem A Promise
A Person A Poem A Promise

After going through it, I could realize the deeper meaning of the poem which I thought was that we continue doing the things we love in life, but they are hugely affected by our surroundings. Also, we might be putting the same effort in our work, but somehow what people expect from us is different and they only reward us if we produce the work they like. The ending of the poem is sad by the message is very simple and deep. I like the way the poet used the various titles of the poem to denote the various phases of the life of the kid.

“Chops”, was the name of his dog, denoted the happy initial phase of his life where he was liked by all, everything was awesome and he got an A and a gold star. The girl around the corner send him a valentines card signed with many X’s. His father always tucked him in the bed.

“Autumn”, denoted a phase where things started changing a bit, just like the leaves fall in autumn. He just got an A, and a remark to write more clearly. He got to know about Father Tracy smoking cigars. The girl around the corner laughed when he asked her to go see Santa Clause. His father now didn’t tuck him in the bed.

The third poem he writes is “Innocence: A Question”. He just gets an A and a strange steady look, Father Tracy died, his mother and father stopped kissing and even talking. And his girl changed, and he didn’t enjoy even kissing her. And he had to tuck himself on the bed as his father snored soundly. This phase of his life is where he looses all the good things in his life, he becomes upset and questions why all this his happening. He tries to figure things out for himself but deep down he feels sad.

The final poem is “Absolutely Nothing“, he has really lost all hope in life. He doesn’t want his work to be graded by anyone anymore. He just gives himself an A and also slashes his wrists. This part is where he gives up on life and  he looses all hope to live.

Another interesting thing was that the kind of paper and handwriting the guy used for each poem, which denotes the mood and the current phase of the kids life.

“Chops” was written on a yellow paper with green lines, with a very clear handwriting for which he got the gold star. The paper and writing denote the clarity and cheerfulness in the life of the kid.

“Autumn” was written on plain white paper with blue lines, and he got a remark about his handwriting as well. This denotes that his life has lost the flavor which was there earlier and he is loosing interest in it.

“Innocence: A Question” was written on a paper which was simply torn from his notebook. This denotes frustration which is creeping in his life, he just wants to pen his thoughts and doesn’t care anymore about his writing.

“Absolutely Nothing” was simply written on a paper bag, because he no more has the desire to write poem. He just want to let things out before ending his life.

Even though the poem doesn’t state about what happened to the guy after he cut his wrists. I can think of two possibilities. One, in which he ends his life and everything ends. Another, where he is saved by someone, he realizes the beauty of his life again and once again takes to writing with the same passion as before and things become beautiful again in his life. I liked how the poet has left us thinking in the end. Overall its a very good piece of literature. I have made a small piece of art to depict the central theme of the poem which was there at the beginning of this post.

Below I am just putting down the full text of the poem, for your understanding of the whole text.

Once on a yellow piece of paper with green lines
he wrote a poem
And he called it “Chops”
because that was the name of his dog
And that’s what it was all about
And his teacher gave him an A
and a gold star
And his mother hung it on the kitchen door
and read it to his aunts
That was the year Father Tracy
took all the kids to the zoo
And he let them sing on the bus
And his little sister was born
with tiny toenails and no hair
And his mother and father kissed a lot
And the girl around the corner sent him a
Valentine signed with a row of X’s
and he had to ask his father what the X’s meant
And his father always tucked him in bed at night
And was always there to do it

Once on a piece of white paper with blue lines
he wrote a poem
And he called it “Autumn”
because that was the name of the season
And that’s what it was all about
And his teacher gave him an A
and asked him to write more clearly
And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because of its new paint
And the kids told him
that Father Tracy smoked cigars
And left butts on the pews
And sometimes they would burn holes
That was the year his sister got glasses
with thick lenses and black frames
And the girl around the corner laughed
when he asked her to go see Santa Claus
And the kids told him why
his mother and father kissed a lot
And his father never tucked him in bed at night
And his father got mad
when he cried for him to do it.

Once on a paper torn from his notebook
he wrote a poem
And he called it “Innocence: A Question”
because that was the question about his girl
And that’s what it was all about
And his professor gave him an A
and a strange steady look
And his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because he never showed her
That was the year that Father Tracy died
And he forgot how the end
of the Apostle’s Creed went
And he caught his sister
making out on the back porch
And his mother and father never kissed
or even talked
And the girl around the corner
wore too much makeup
That made him cough when he kissed her
but he kissed her anyway
because that was the thing to do
And at three a.m. he tucked himself into bed
his father snoring soundly

That’s why on the back of a brown paper bag
he tried another poem
And he called it “Absolutely Nothing”
Because that’s what it was really all about
And he gave himself an A
and a slash on each damned wrist
And he hung it on the bathroom door
because this time he didn’t think
he could reach the kitchen.

-Earl Reum

I hope you like the poem as well as the artwork. Do comment with what was your observation about the poem and what do you feel about its ending.


  1. The Perks of being a Wallflower: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Perks_of_Being_a_Wallflower
  2. Quotes from The Perks of being a Wallflower: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Perks_of_Being_a_Wallflower
  3. Earl Ruem: http://www.earlreum.com/
  4. LIFE magazine article on Earl Reum’s life: http://books.google.co.in/books?id=iUoEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA72&lpg=PA72&dq=earl+reum+life+magazine&source=bl&ots=kJSvOshnuT&sig=w_K0ZKZiHQ7bzpEb0m3GtCMNBls&hl=en&ei=IH39TPLQMMGp8Abh5LGZBw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=true

2 thoughts on “A Person/ A Paper/ A Promise

  1. I think the poem is not just about growing up but also about his life changing which therefore changes himself. The older he gets the more his innocence and childhood gets ripped away from him, but the thing is his innocence was the thing that left him in pure bliss. Like so many of us he just wanted to be happy again to be young and free. The more he grew the more he realized this could not be that he just had to grow up and face life miserable or not. He realized that people did not care for his works or for his dislike of his new life. Hence the lack of sharing with his mother and the anger from his father when asked to be tucked in.At the end of the poem he is in utter despair so sad that he resorts to self harm. I think that either he died that night he was so weak from bleeding out he could not reach the kitchen. I also think that it is likely that he did not get better after this but continued to live his life cause that’s what everyone expected him to do I think he never really learned to be happy he continued to “slash each damned wrist” until eventually the angel of death sent him into eternal peace.

    1. This is a really great perspective you are sharing. I didn’t think on these lines. But ya the poem has a lot of lines which are left for the readers imagination. The poem struck a particular chord with me as I see this as something happening in bits and pieces to us and people around us. The poem does a good job of moving from innocence to an accepted way of living which we all have gotten used to.

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