jillypoet: mom trying to write

Each day I wish I had invented waterproof sticky notes (for shower inspiration) or pen-friendly diapers to get down all my quirky thoughts that I am sure are relevant and publishable. And so God (actually another writer-mommy) sent me The Blog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The End of the Rainbow in the Tip of a Cigarette: Poetry Gong #5

Christine over at Balanced on the Edge just wrote a letter poem in response to Jo's (Florescence) poem on poverty. From these two poems, I was inspired to write the piece below, about my fascination with a neighbor family in my hometown. They were a loud house, a full house, a messy, smelly house. I loved them.

Dear Christine,

When old Unk lit his hand-rolled
cigarette on the sagging wood porch,
the whole clan pulled up a step.
This was the family with the kids who ate
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bread flopping
in time with shoe-less feet up and down the sidewalk.

Up and down the sidewalk my mother cried,
apron flying behind her one summer afternoon.
I’ve lost my daughter. I’ve got her bologna
with the crust cut off waiting on a plate
in our kitchen. Have you seen her?
She never thought
to stop at the neighbor’s where the children took meals to go.

Whiskered stump of a man, Unk rarely spoke.
A smoking Buddha, wrapped in paper-thin plaid
and tattered polyester slacks. Uncle, grandfather,
brother, father all jammed into one man, into one house.
His tobacco stink wrapped its brown arms around
you, pulled you in like moth to flame.

My mother once told me how she and her sister
were the only kids who smelled like a barn.
Now she relishes her daily showers, bastes her body
in Jean Nate, dusts herself in Love’s Babysoft.
She is a garden, the fistful of dandelions on the neighbor’s table
next to my half-eaten bowl of cold Spaghettios.

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Anonymous christine said...

Jill, your poem is full of the details that bring a moment to life. I love the smoking Buddha Unk, and the sandwiches flopping around. The description reminds me of the neighborhood I lived in while growing up in Chicago. Those stoops were the best hangouts. Thanks for reminding me of those days.

And I'm so glad you carried on the letter. Why don't you post this one at RWP? They're linking on Thursdays now, and today's link is a collaborative one, so this poem fits. I linked mine.

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this is awesome. i declare poetry gong a success for you. i declare it worth fighting for.

i came over here to see if you had posted and if not, i was going to send you an email cheering you on. i'll save the pep talk for another day.

congrats on not needing it!

did you do this when you swore off email this afternoon?

8:54 PM  
Blogger Rob Kistner said...

This was a lush and satisfying read -- and it offered the warmth of something familiar and genuine...

2:32 AM  
Anonymous Sweet Talking Guy.. said...

Yeah, I love the concept of the letter poem - and all those memories.

So well told!

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Nathan said...

I have to agree with Christine -- such detail! And not just any but key details, true artistry. And that last stanza the reflection on the narrator's mother is the perfect ending for this. I really like this a lot.

9:31 PM  

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