America, Canada #Thanksgiving #poem #Cuba #coffee #Pumpkin

To read the poem skip the long into 🙂

Peanut butter Jam sandwiches came to my notice with a cartoon book by Gary Larson. He showed two cartoons -one of his far side and one of Dennis the Menace- where the quotes under the cartoons had been accidentally (?!) swapped. The Far Side cartoon showed, I think, two dinosaurs fighting ostensibly over peanut butter and jam sandwiches. So…they became my “healthy” after exercise favourites. Nuts are healthy. Fruit is healthy.

My parents being from Indonesia, we ate spicy peanut butter sauce a lot. The derogatory term for families like us in Dutch is “katjangs” (peanuts).  A famous Dutch children’s book is called How the Peanuts came to the Boarding School of mr. Small Tummy (who actually had a fat belly): it is about two mixed Indo-Dutch boys who are sent to the Netherlands.

I guess from the poem that Cubans in Cuba don’t eat much peanut butter, or the generation Blanco talks about anyway. Fried plantain chips though! We had those on Aruba too. And an Indonesian staple as well. Fried plantain so good. It is lovely to have a small store in your neighbourhood where you can the fruits and meats from your childhood or your background.

The poem seems to be about food and food until you read it again and notice some political stuff: stanza I mentions food donations by the Immigration Department. Was this before foodstamps?  II mentions the cuban community coming together to hold on to their dignity and to close their eyes from the loss of status and connections and the racism that would rob them of jobs, of chances, of promotions, of recognition.

III mentions colouring books in class that depict yams and presumably native americans who help the pilgrims survive the winters. A fiction that colours genocide with yellow, brown, and turkey red.

IV is all about politics and the illustrates perfectly the empty words that freedom, liberty and justice can become without hearing all the stories of colonization and opportunity and murder and riches and plantations and community.
I like this verse the least because it feels empty. I like how the child is supported by their family by making concessions on foods.

V The other food, the American food, is judged to be dry and pumpkin pie not suitable for celebrations, for isn’t it medicinal? They tried pleasing everyone and thus pleased no-one.
Who doesn’t forget their worries with dancing…The joy of hearing your sounds, being back where you belong. Or think you belong. When we would go to Indonesian or Caribbean events in the Netherlands, dancing and food were the success we judged the party by. Dancing with someone else of course. None of this on your own nonsense. No loss of connections allowed. Everything aimed to glue us together. Forget the loneliness of another culture for a night.

América
By Richard Blanco

I.
Although Tía Miriam boasted she discovered
at least half a dozen uses for peanut butter—
topping for guava shells in syrup,
butter substitute for Cuban toast,
hair conditioner and relaxer—
Mamá never knew what to make
of the monthly five-pound jars
handed out by the immigration department
until my friend, Jeff, mentioned jelly.

II.
There was always pork though,
for every birthday and wedding,
whole ones on Christmas and New Year’s Eve,
even on Thanksgiving day—pork,
fried, broiled, or crispy skin roasted—
as well as cauldrons of black beans,
fried plantain chips, and yuca con mojito.
These items required a special visit
to Antonio’s Mercado on the corner of Eighth Street
where men in guayaberas stood in senate
blaming Kennedy for everything—“Ese hijo de puta!”
the bile of Cuban coffee and cigar residue
filling the creases of their wrinkled lips;
clinging to one another’s lies of lost wealth,
ashamed and empty as hollow trees.

III.
By seven I had grown suspicious—we were still here.
Overheard conversations about returning
had grown wistful and less frequent.
I spoke English; my parents didn’t.
We didn’t live in a two-story house
with a maid or a wood-panel station wagon
nor vacation camping in Colorado.
None of the girls had hair of gold;
none of my brothers or cousins
were named Greg, Peter, or Marcia;
we were not the Brady Bunch.
None of the black and white characters
on Donna Reed or on the Dick Van Dyke Show
were named Guadalupe, Lázaro, or Mercedes.
Patty Duke’s family wasn’t like us either—
they didn’t have pork on Thanksgiving,
they ate turkey with cranberry sauce;
they didn’t have yuca, they had yams
like the dittos of Pilgrims I colored in class.

IV.
A week before Thanksgiving
I explained to my abuelita
about the Indians and the Mayflower,
how Lincoln set the slaves free;
I explained to my parents about
the purple mountain’s majesty,
“one if by land, two if by sea,”
the cherry tree, the tea party,
the amber waves of grain,
the “masses yearning to be free,”
liberty and justice for all, until
finally they agreed:
this Thanksgiving we would have turkey,
as well as pork.

V.
Abuelita prepared the poor fowl
as if committing an act of treason,
faking her enthusiasm for my sake.
Mamá set a frozen pumpkin pie in the oven
and prepared candied yams following instructions
I translated from the marshmallow bag.
The table was arrayed with gladiolas,
the plattered turkey loomed at the center
on plastic silver from Woolworth’s.
Everyone sat in green velvet chairs
we had upholstered with clear vinyl,
except Tío Carlos and Toti, seated
in the folding chairs from the Salvation Army.
I uttered a bilingual blessing
and the turkey was passed around
like a game of Russian Roulette.
“DRY,” Tío Berto complained, and proceeded
to drown the lean slices with pork fat drippings
and cranberry jelly—“esa mierda roja,” he called it.
Faces fell when Mamá presented her ochre pie—
pumpkin was a home remedy for ulcers, not a dessert.
Tía María made three rounds of Cuban coffee
then Abuelo and Pepe cleared the living room furniture,
put on a Celia Cruz LP and the entire family
began to merengue over the linoleum of our apartment,
sweating rum and coffee until they remembered—
it was 1970 and 46 degrees—
in América.
After repositioning the furniture,
an appropriate darkness filled the room.
Tío Berto was the last to leave.

Richard Blanco, “América” from City of a Hundred Fires. Copyright © 1998. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, http://www.pitt.edu/~press/. Used by permission of University of Pittsburgh Press.
Source: City of a Hundred Fires (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)

A Beautiful Town by Haya Pomrenze #poem #Jewish #death #mourning

A Beautiful Town by Haya Pomrenze

When my father died I was twelve hundred miles away
because a giggly-bosomed hospice nurse
in loud pink scrubs chirped
that it could be weeks, even a month.
That evening he had mushroom barley soup
then gave each child an I love you.
Over the phone it sounded like a regular I love you
not a final phrase, which is why
you have to see people when they speak to you.
I wish I could say that looking back
I heard my father’s wet cough, his rattled breath
a long pause, which forced me to board a plane.
Instead that night my father went to the bathroom
with his walker and his Jamaican aide he loved like a daughter,
which makes me feel happy and sad. His kidneys shut down
the way his face did when he was hurt or angry.
Back in the railed hospital bed he counted down in real time
the same way he did when we were late for carpool or synagogue.
Five minutes, four minutes, faltered at three.
He made it to one minute, eyes at half-mast.
It’s a beautiful town, he said.

—from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith

__________

Haya Pomrenze: “With the exception of eating rice pudding and chocolate babka, writing poetry is the closest I’ve come to a true spiritual experience. I’m a believer in God on my own terms. I write poems in synagogue, on carpool line, while having sex, working with my psych patients. I have absolute faith in a higher power when I write. There’s a bit of the divine in my mortal words.”

Little Brown Baby by Paul Laurence Dunbar

black-baby-jesus
Photo: Matt Barnes Art direction: Natasha Romanelli, Ann Aberin

* For parents and others who love the adorableness of scallywags.
* I love how people squoosh language.
* Sometimes I look at old old poems and I feel amazing that words change and grammar too. It is pretty fantastic. “hebban olla vogala nestas bagunnan hinase hic enda thu wat unbidan we nu” Old (west) Dutch/old Kentish used to be very similar!!

Little Brown Baby
BY PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR

Little brown baby wif spa’klin’ eyes,
Come to yo’ pappy an’ set on his knee.
What you been doin’, suh — makin’ san’ pies?
Look at dat bib — you’s es du’ty ez me.
Look at dat mouf — dat’s merlasses, I bet;
Come hyeah, Maria, an’ wipe off his han’s.
Bees gwine to ketch you an’ eat you up yit,
Bein’ so sticky an sweet — goodness lan’s!

Little brown baby wif spa’klin’ eyes,
Who’s pappy’s darlin’ an’ who’s pappy’s chile?
Who is it all de day nevah once tries
Fu’ to be cross, er once loses dat smile?
Whah did you git dem teef? My, you’s a scamp!
Whah did dat dimple come f’om in yo’ chin?
Pappy do’ know you — I b’lieves you’s a tramp;
Mammy, dis hyeah’s some ol’ straggler got in!

Let’s th’ow him outen de do’ in de san’,
We do’ want stragglers a-layin’ ‘roun’ hyeah;
Let’s gin him ‘way to de big buggah-man;
I know he’s hidin’ erroun’ hyeah right neah.
Buggah-man, buggah-man, come in de do’,
Hyeah’s a bad boy you kin have fu’ to eat.
Mammy an’ pappy do’ want him no mo’,
Swaller him down f’om his haid to his feet!

Dah, now, I t’ought dat you’d hug me up close.
Go back, ol’ buggah, you sha’n’t have dis boy.
He ain’t no tramp, ner no straggler, of co’se;
He’s pappy’s pa’dner an’ play-mate an’ joy.
Come to you’ pallet now — go to yo’ res’;
Wisht you could allus know ease an’ cleah skies;
Wisht you could stay jes’ a chile on my breas’—
Little brown baby wif spa’klin’ eyes!

Black History Month: Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. Childhood.

Image

Nikki-Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

childhood remembrances are always a drag
if you’re Black
you always remember things like living in Woodlawn
with no inside toilet
and if you become famous or something
they never talk about how happy you were to have
your mother
all to yourself and
how good the water felt when you got your bath
from one of those
big tubs that folk in chicago barbecue in
and somehow when you talk about home
it never gets across how much you
understood their feelings
as the whole family attended meetings about Hollydale
and even though you remember
your biographers never understand
your father’s pain as he sells his stock
and another dream goes
And though you’re poor it isn’t poverty that
concerns you
and though they fought a lot
it isn’t your father’s drinking that makes any difference
but only that everybody is together and you
and your sister have happy birthdays and very good
Christmases
and I really hope no white person ever has cause
to write about me
because they never understand
Black love is Black wealth and they’ll
probably talk about my hard childhood
and never understand that
all the while I was quite happy

Black History Month. From Arnold Rampersad, the Oxford Anthology of African-American Poetry.

 

BUY the book:

USED: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=oxford+anthology+of+african-american+poetry
NEW from a local bookstore: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780195125634

LITTLE MAN AROUND THE HOUSE, Yusef Komunyakaa. Black History Month- poetry.

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LITTLE MAN AROUND THE HOUSE
Mama Elsie’s ninety now.
She calls you whippersnapper.
When you two laugh, her rheumatism
Slips out the window like the burglar
She hears nightly. Three husbands
& an only son dead, she says
I’ll always be a daddy’s girl.
Sometimes I can’t get Papa’s face
Outta my head. But this boy, my great-
Great-grandson, he’s sugar in my coffee.
You look up from your toy
Telescope, with Satchmo’s eyes,
As if I’d put a horn to your lips.
You love maps of buried treasure,
Praying Mantis, & Public Enemy…
Blessed. For a moment I am jealous.
You sit like the king of trumpet
Between my grandmama & wife,
Youngblood, a Cheshire cat
Hoodooing two birds at once.