Don’t Talk Back

Stu wants us to write about rebellion today, and that should be easy for me, seeing as how I wrote the dang book! But instead of writing a new poem, I’m going to post one of my old ones that kind of explains what brought out the rebel in me. A lot of mixed signals and rules did the trick.

Don’t Talk Back

 It wasn’t always fun

Being a kid, I mean

Sometimes it was scary

Never heard and only seen


Don’t speak unless you’re spoken to

Sit still and don’t talk back

Hush, grownups are talking

How would you like a smack


Don’t say you didn’t hear me

Go wash out your ears

I’ll give you something to cry about

Now wipe away those tears


Don’t you sass at me, young man

From this yard you’re not to roam

You’ll be sorry for what you’ve said

As soon as your father gets home


The teacher scowls, don’t talk in class

And no whispering in the halls

Now get up front and give a speech

Before your grade point falls


Speak up now, I can’t hear you

And I expect that soon you’ll find

To get along in this hard world

You must learn to speak your mind


Copyright © 1998 C. Mashburn


Posting on dVerse Poets Pub’s Poetics: The Art of Rebellion


  1. Claudia said

    ha…they want the kids silent and invisible and then suddenly they should be able to do a speech in front of the class…crazy…glad that things changed much nowadays..

  2. Mary said

    Real hard to know when one should speak and one should not…with so many mixed messages. Today’s kids, I think, grow up ‘speaking’ more than being ‘silent.’ At least that is MY observation.

  3. Tony said

    Talk – don’t talk; walk – don’t walk; I sure wish those adults could have made up their minds. I hope we’re different now!

  4. Laurie Kolp said

    ‘Don’t talk,’ and then ‘speak up’ are words I heard a lot, too.

  5. poemsofhateandhope said

    very touching poem Charles, and probably because I relate to it…my Father was absent very early on in my life leaving me with a very unpleasant stepfather and my mother wasn’t too pleasant either….i learnt very quickly that I wanted to be NOTHING like them…rebellion begins at home…great piece my friend

  6. dangerous ground growning up man…depending on the house you are in…my mom knew how to use the belt for sure when she needed it…never speek unless i tell you htough is so sad….not the way of kids….

    • Mom seldom used a belt or anything for that matter, but I think I heard the “wait tilyour dad gets home” a few times.

  7. zongrik said

    they don’t want them to speak their minds, but to speak what they are taught in an outlines manner

    dear brother

  8. Ah, the enquiring mind of a child! 🙂

  9. Those old days had some rather tight grooming of a child’s personality! Like a robotic upbringing! No wonder the 60’s child heard the other music and rebelled!

  10. Some are good, some are not…so why not speak your mind ~

    Good one Charles ~ Happy weekend ~

  11. And that’s just the way it was, Charles! Long live Rock ‘n’ Roll!

  12. Ha! I remember each and every phrase Charles, except for me it was ‘my lady’ or ‘young lady’ rather than ‘young man’ ~ how you take me back with this one 🙂

  13. this sounds chillingly familiar erg school days – good write

  14. Sherry Mashburn said

    Lots of rules back then, we’ve swung too far the other way

  15. nephiriel said

    sounds oh so familiar… took me right back to “these days”. wonderful, thank you!

  16. Daydreamer said

    Oh the contradictions! I love it!

  17. Raivenne said

    Growing up I recognize the whole “shut up!” / “answer me!” of this. I smile fondly now, but goodness it was so frustrating then!

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