It’s Too Soon to Tell

by Barb, writing away in Portland, Maine

I love writing to prompts. There are many kinds of prompts: a word or phrase, a physical object, a photo or other image, or even a piece of music. Typically, when you write to prompts in a group setting with other writers, you get a limited amount of time, say 10 or 15 minutes, to write.

Over the years, my production in these situations has been equal parts memoir, essay, and fiction. I’ve completed a couple of pieces I started writing to prompts, but mostly it’s a limbering up exercise and an opportunity for collegiality that keeps me fresh. I have a tendency to think too much and the focus provided by the prompt, along with the time limit, gets me out of my own way.

Here is a piece that I wrote in 2007 in response to the prompt, “Finish the phrase, ‘It’s too soon to tell.'” It may have special meaning for me today as I await the birth of my second grandchild.

It’s Too Soon To Tell

It’s too soon to tell
Will he have his mother’s fine skin,
His father’s auburn hair,
His Uncle Charlie’s protuberant ears?

It’s too soon to tell
Will he have his grandmother’s gift for music
His grandfather’s way with words,
Cousin Violet’s wonderful laugh?

Will he run races like his Uncle Pearce?
Build great cities like his Cousin Neville?
Or write software like Rita’s daughter Lil?

It’s too soon to tell
Will he have Aunt Clea’s love of the bottle,
Uncle Henry’s black depressions,
Cousin Mortimer’s passion for unsuitable women
Or Cousin Jasper’s for unsuitable men?

Will he know great love?
Will he go to war?
Will he know want, or will his pockets always be full?

This much we do know
He smells like heaven
His smile lights up the sky
His cry breaks your heart
And he holds each of us in the palm of his hand

Because we can’t wait to discover
The oh, so many things
It’s too soon to tell

About Barbara Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries. Her books have been nominated for multiple Agatha Awards for Best Contemporary Novel and have won the Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. She lives in Portland, Maine. Readers can visit her website at
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7 Responses to It’s Too Soon to Tell

  1. – This is lovely, Barb. And may the birth go easily with healthy result for Kate and baby! Can’t wait to hear the news.

  2. Oh, Barb. Thank you for sharing this. Soon your entire family will be waking up each morning wondering “is this the day?”
    I know this child will have a wonderful welcome to the world.

  3. Kate Flora says:

    Love this, Barb. The writing prompt I am playing with right now stems from my getting the Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Crime Bake. Does getting it mean the end of the lifetime of work? Lifetime achievement seems to lend itself to crime writing.

    • Barbara Ross says:

      Kate, this would make such a great story. Either, Lifetime Achievement winners who die mysteriously after receiving the award, OR a Twilight Zone/The Lottery type thing where people who know if they are picked for the award they will be killed immediately after.

  4. Gram says:

    Lovely poem.

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