May 24, 2019

Promises

(In the early 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel conducted an experiment with preschoolers to explore the connection between delayed gratification and future success: One marshmallow now … or two later?)

 

Who waits for the second marshmallow?
Lab rats under blue fluorescence,
kicking metal table legs
weighing pros and cons.
Sugar cloud so tempting
on its deckled paper plate,
grab one now, or wait a bit
and get a double dip?

 

The Hebrews followed Moses
to a promised Promised Land,
but when he left to chat with God
they built a golden calf.
Alone in desert silence,
terror high and dry,
they reached for comfort’s glitter,
spirit seized by need.
Memory of pyramids,
the overseers’ cruel whips,
softened by fresh drifts of sand,
drowned in hunger’s now. 

 

Who can blame a three-year-old
for giving in to sweet,
a frightened slave for craving light
in soullessness of dark?
What future lies in future’s path
impossible to know,
but sugar high on curling tongue?
We want our marshmallows now.


Paula Rudnick is a former television writer and producer who has spent the past 30 years as a volunteer for nonprofit organizations.