upon trading stories for poetry

Taken aback. Nuts and oranges in Christmas stockings hanging from the doorknobs. I remember them, and every year our mother making flannel pajamas for the four of us (and later for the five.) We were one unit, my two older brothers and I. The same pj’s, the same cowboy boots, matching leather holsters and silver cap guns. But this was the year a baby sister entered the picture, and with that, a . . .wha? . . . baby doll from Santa. Apparently for me. How could that be? Where was my army helmet?

I still move through life like that—thinking I am on the army-helmet-path, and being the last to realize the doll waiting under a tree has my name on it.  And being among the last to know what’s more appropriate. There’s always been some sort of Santa who knows me better than I know myself.

Who knew I’d end up on the poetry path, for instance? I was the shy one in grade school. Unless. Except when I had a good story to share during Show & Tell: A drunk breaking through our front door when we were eating lunch and Mom grabbing the baby from the high chair and shoving her into our arms. Run to the neighbors and tell Annabelle to send Louie over with his bat.

Or the story about an uncle getting shot at by his jealous wife. And just when I’d get to the good parts of the story—who said what to Paddy and why Paddy hit the cop—the teacher would ask me to take my seat.

But I wasn’t finished yet. On his own Mother’s front door step, I stood up to add.

That was the year Tony Palagi took a deeper interest in me. And that was the year my second-grade teacher made a deal with me. Instead of telling stories, how about spending two weeks making your own poetry book? And when it is all done, you can share that with the class during Show & Tell.

This appealed to me. My second brother was in third grade writing adorable puppy poems and my first brother was on the second floor of our old brick school house, having graduated to fourth grade, learning to write short stories.  So I accepted Miss Conry’s deal, thinking my brothers could help out.

By Show & Tell day I had a collection of ten poems written  in #2 pencil on paper torn from the Big Chief tablet we kept in the kitchen drawer at home. I wore my lucky red dress, which matched the cover of my Sherry O’Keefe Poetry book. I knew the poems by heart and decided to save the best poem for last. Miss Conry was sure to be taken aback by my brilliance:

There once was a fellow McSweeney . . .

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About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

13 responses to “upon trading stories for poetry

  1. Laughing!! Well, I am always taken aback by your brilliance!

  2. Kerry

    Hey! I knew a poem like that one that we used to skip rope to…”Old Man Zeeney….” What memories we keep enclosed in these vaults of ours…it’s always amazing when you pluck one of those dusty old boxes out from underneath the mason jars to see what still survives…

  3. ..I once knew a girl named Sherry
    whose thoughts floated up near the fairies
    try as we might..
    even tied to a kite
    We could …
    Tag Sher, you’re it!

    • redmitten

      but shelley lynnnnn! you are the master rhymer. me, i’m all free verse.

      uh ok: ..I once knew a girl named Sherry
      whose thoughts floated up near the fairies
      try as we might..
      even tied to a kite
      We couldn’t keep Sherry grounded.

    • redmitten

      but shelley lynn, you are the master rhymer. and i am just a free verser.

      ok…uh….ok: “we couldn’t keep sherry grounded.”

  4. Sherry! This is adorable. What an ending too. I’m still chortling. Thanks so for sharing. I’m still waiting for my army helmet!

    Luv, Karla

  5. What did McSweeney have that was teeny?

  6. wuffda

    yes yes, but then what happened?

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