What does the passage "or may simply be afloat at evening like clouds unable to make repairs" in the poem "Children" mean?Bill Manhire: Children   The likelihood is the children will die...

What does the passage "or may simply be afloat at evening like clouds unable to make repairs" in the poem "Children" mean?

Bill Manhire:

Children

 

The likelihood is

the children will die

without you to help them do it.

It will be spring,

the light on the water,

or not.

 

And though at present

they live together

they will not die together.

They will die one by one

and not think to call you:

they will be old

 

and you will be gone.

It will be spring,

or not. They may be crossing

the road,

not looking left,

not looking right,

 

or may simply be afloat at evening

like clouds unable

to make repairs. That

one talks too much, that one

hardly at all: and they both enjoy

the light on the water

 

much as we enjoy

the sense

of indefinite postponement. Yes

it’s a tall story but don’t you think

full of promise, and he’s just a kid

but watch him grow.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Manhire's use of the line is in contrast to the previous thought.  The previous thought is one where children are presented as doing something, such as "crossing the road, not looking left, not looking right."  The image of the "afloat at evening like clouds unable to make repairs," is one where we see children being in a state of passivity.  This helps to bring to light that while the inevitable end will visit those who are in a state of activity, it will also do the same to those who might not benefit from activity.  In the end, all will endure the same end, the same condition and the same context.  I think that in a larger sense the contrasting of image shows the divergent nature of kids, in general.  Part of raising children is the idea of being able to embrace the notion that children will encompass different elements, and become different things.  We see kids as becoming one thing based on our efforts and becoming that one thing we envision in our own subjective.  Manhire might be suggesting that they are products of life and like all life, "it cannot be contained."  It is one that is to be embraced and advocated in all of its vitality and richness for it is life, and cannot be predetermined to be one thing or another.