What do you want?

What does the toddler want?
To go to the construction yard,
Pass sand through her fingers
And watch it flow
While suspended in awe.
“Stay away from that sand”,
A hand drags her back.
Bad girls play with sand
Good girls memorize the alphabet
And recite nursery rhymes instead.

What does the child want?
To go with his friends to a plot nearby
To play a game they made up
That vaguely resembles cricket.
“But you have music class today.”
The child’s smile withers
As he signals to his waiting friends.
Good kids learn classical music
And coding, perhaps, to get a head-start
In a race that their parents run.

What does the graduate want?
To be part of a vision, a movement,
With sprightly steps and twinkling eyes
To gift posterity a better planet.
“Environmentalism? That is just as a hobby.”
A passing fad, a trend in the end.
What good have liberal arts wrought,
That rivals the marvels of engineering?
Graduates stop worrying about the world’s future
And focus on their future instead.

What does the professional want?
To lead with kindness, benevolence,
And let creativity flourish
Even as hers was trampled under foot
By her boss’s sales targets and stale temper.
“Empathy? That is just branding jargon.”
Money and markets are ruthless
And so are her most successful colleagues.
If she dare think different she can step aside
For the legions of cronies vying for her place.

What does the retiree want?
At the twilight of a regretful career
His eyes still twinkle. A second chance perhaps?
To pass sand through his fingers,
Learn a new craft and leave a better world.
“The old dog wants to learn new tricks?”
They employ only those who are half his age.
Too old to answer a new calling.
Too old to be spending more
Than Sundays with his own grandkids.

What do you want?
“Life is hard. We have done our part,
Paid our dues and given you a head-start.
How dare you now ask what you want,
Question our sacrifice and play the truant?”
What do you want? Just close your eyes
And listen carefully for a familiar voice
For down beneath, muffled by all that noise,
The answer that you once only knew too well
Is murmured in a desperate whisper.

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