With apologies to Shel Silverstein's "I Cannot Go to School Today!" (as quoted in an episode of "The Office"). Like many other good ideas, the basis for this poem came to me in the shower. Each time I looked at my roommate's bottle of St. Ives shampoo, I was reminded of "As I was Going to St. Ives" (as quoted in Die Hard with a Vengeance).
The iambic tetrameter of the latter rhyme invariably reminded me of the former Shel Silverstein poem. In response, I had mentally composed two lines of my own, which eventually formed the basis for the rest of this poem. The title of the poem comes from a phrase I had come up with a long time ago.
"I do not like the way you look,"
Said Mister Pan to Mister Hook.
"Oh, stow it, Peter!" countered Jim,
"'Afore I take my phantom limb,
And bash yer brains out of your head.
I'm eighty-five and nearly dead,
And you—so lean, and mean, and keen—
–"What are you, twelve?" –"No, I'm fourteen,"
Retorted then the youthful knave,
Who hadn't yet begun to shave,
"Two-score a year back, to the day,
I made a deal with Mister Grey,
And now, my dear, old naval sage,
I do not die, I do not age.
I relish blushing girls' embrace,
I spy, I fly, I chase the lace..."
"You fool!" cried out his constant foe,
"Before my grave's eternal snow,
You will regret this hellish deal!
You'll beg to keel! You'll cry for steel!
When I was young, I too would look
For girls and wine—behold my hook!"
"Forget it, buddy," countered Pete,
"I'm off to Wendy Darling meet."
The old man sat with his vermouth,
Considering his time of youth,
And forth then went our Peter Pan,
And from a boy turned to a man.
I do not know what years had passed.
It was a long time, but at last
Lay Mister Pan, all old and frayed,
By his acquaintances betrayed,
And though he batted still his eye,
He lived thus, and he could not die.
"What is the lesson?" you may level,
"Do not make dim deals with the devil?"
Alas, the argument's quite plain:
Do not cast off your life in vain.
Know when to cut and when to run,
When shun or stun, when to have fun.
Know when to love and when to lie,
When to persist and when to die.
If you're a woman or a man,
Beware the curse of Peter Pan.