Wednesday, January 8, 2014

To Betty and Bob


This week I started a poetry unit with my freshmen. I never feel right making them write and pour out their feelings into poetry if I haven't done it first. This week they're writing a catalogue poem based on the style of Nikki Giovanni's poem "Nikki Rosa" and Lauryn Hill's song "Every Ghetto, Every City." They need to use diction and imagery to express how a negative childhood experience had a positive outcome. Here's my attempt.


To Betty and Bob

The first memory I have
of Her
is hiding behind Mommy’s legs.
Ask Her if she could take down the tin
from the pantry.

If I could just reach myself.
Pluck off the blue, metal lid with my greedy little hands
and hover over the sugar-flecked, tissue-papered treasures.
My fingers hook like a claw crane game, cranking down,
descending on the delicious, Danish sweets.
Square? Pretzel? Swirling Silver Dollar?
Crystals of sugar to crack between my baby teeth.

“Katie, ask her yourself.”
Grandmas -- intimidating when you’re six
in the first three minutes through the front door.
Bendy straws in her nose
make a jumprope to a tank of air.
She gasps for a breath with her nostrils.

What’s lung cancer to a child
with cookies perched on the shelf?

Silent flowers and Daddy’s tears and Green Acres.
A house stained yellow,
sequined hummingbirds
and smoke.
Hayden and McKellips.

We drive past on Thanksgiving day.
Nineteen years past cookies.
The sun nearly gone
and it surprises me when I see the
cemetery.
Like a long lost temple out of the mist.
I’m summoned.

Park the car,
tiptoe over tombstones
and step to the spot.
Two plaques side by side,
on a great marble tome.
Hers -- a paled brass, like an old trumpet.
His -- a deep brown, a violin.
A fountain swells in my belly
and fills my throat
and floods out my eyes.
I’m wrapped up in a hug,
my future fellow plaque,
a thick, knit blanket to warm my soul.
As long as we both shall live.
As long as they both did.

Robert Glen Anderson.
Elizabeth Jean Hikes.
To Betty and Bob.

1922-1994
1914-2009

Grandpa & Grandma Anderson with me as a newborn

Grandpa, Brett, me, Aaron, Grandma, Mindy

Grandma

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