“Bless Their Hearts”

Bless Their Hearts

by Richard Newman 

At Steak ‘n Shake I learned that if you add

“Bless their hearts” after their names, you can say

whatever you want about them and it’s OK.

My son, bless his heart, is an idiot,

she said. He rents storage space for his kids’

toys—they’re only one and three years old!

I said, my father, bless his heart, has turned

into a sentimental old fool. He gets

weepy when he hears my daughter’s greeting

on our voice mail. Before our Steakburgers came

someone else blessed her office mate’s heart,

then, as an afterthought, the jealous hearts

of the entire anthropology department.

We bestowed blessings on many a heart

that day. I even blessed my ex-wife’s heart.

Our waiter, bless his heart, would not be getting

much tip, for which, no doubt, he’d bless our hearts.

In a week it would be Thanksgiving,

and we would each sit with our respective

families, counting our blessings and blessing

the hearts of family members as only family

does best. Oh, bless us all, yes, bless us, please

bless us and bless our crummy little hearts.


BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE 2004-2006

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2009 by Richard Newman from his most recent book of poetry,Domestic Fugues, Steel Toe Books, 2009. Reprinted by permission of Richard Newman. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. 

Lori’s Notes: I read this Richard Newman poem over at the American Life in Poetry site a few weeks ago and have not forgotten it. Some good poems stick like that.
“We bestowed blessings on many a heart that day.” We can be tricky with our tongues, can’t we?


13 thoughts on ““Bless Their Hearts”

  1. Ah, Lori,
    Bless your lil ol’ heart for sharing this great chuckle today. In the words of Conrad Birdie (bless his heart), “You gotta be sincere.”

    • Ah, Robin, I will have to look up Conrad Birdie’s song about sincerity to know for sure what you are saying. Here I go…looking it up…

  2. I read about the phrase “Bless his heart” and “Bless her heart” in an article about Southern sayings. This poem does a good job of holding up a mirror, I think.

  3. Oh boy oh boy. If you add ‘Pea-pickin’ in front of heart does it make it ok?

    • Oh my gosh, Pith. You are hilarious. I’m going to start calling you Pith instead of Prude, I think. (I better look up Pith first just to be sure I’ve got the right word here). Lots of looking things up today. Bless your pea-pickin’ heart!

  4. I guess I found this poem a little more heart-rending than Robin did. Anyway, I am glad I found you Lori!

    • Susan, I’m glad you found me here, too! Thanks for taking the time to leave a note.
      Maybe that’s why it’s such a good poem: Robin found a laugh; Tracie saw a mirror; it touched your heart in a serious sort of way; and I found myself sternly cautioned to watch my words.

  5. So true, especially in the south, the only place where you can be totally insulted from sugary sweet lips.

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