How does Peter Meinke use figurative language in "Advice to My Son," and what is his overall point?

In his poem "Advice to My Son," Peter Meinke discusses the "both/and" nature of life and advises his son both to recognize the shortness of life and to plan ahead for the long term. He uses metaphors of a garden, of nectar, and of bread and wine to illustrate his point.

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The main point of Peter Meinke's poem "Advice to My Son" is to live in a way that respects the "both/and" nature of life. Life is short, and days go fast, and sometimes young people die. Therefore, the poet recommends, "live your days / as if each one may be your last." Yet at the same time, the days often feel slow, and people also need to plan for the long term, because their decisions can make their lives an approximation "of heaven or hell."

Meinke uses some wonderful figurative language to illustrate his point. He first employs the extended metaphor of the garden. Flowers and vegetables should be planted side by side. Beautiful things are important, but so are useful things. The poet then goes on to compare beauty to nectar. Nectar can save a person in the desert (just as beauty can save a person in the darkness and barrenness and difficulties of life), but people also need solid food, the substance that gives them nutrients. Further, the poet advises his son, "always serve bread with your wine." Again, this is a metaphor that suggests a balance in life. The son should seek both substance (symbolized by bread) and enjoyment (symbolized by wine).

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