Thursday, January 18, 2024

A Gathering of Poetry: January 2024

It's the third Thursday of the month so I'd like to welcome you to A Gathering of Poetry. I came across this poem in the Washington Post Book Club Newsletter last week. The author's debut volume of poetry, A History of Half-Birds, was selected by Maggie Smith for the 2023 Ballard Spahr Prize for Poetry. I can't tell you exactly why I liked this poem so much, but there are quite a few of my grandmothers' characteristics included - collections of roosters in the kitchen, a keyboard that we played our melodies on, and tins of butter cookies. One grandmother's tin actually contained cookies and the other's was filled with sewing supplies. Both were wonderful.

Patients Regain Song Before Speech
by Caroline Harper New

So many lengths of catgut can be strung
from a body. Each body could contain hundreds
of orchestras, Mozart insists against my grandmother's skin.
I believe some part of her body still vibrates
beneath all its soft battles and sinews, and Mozart
understands. He is praised for the silence
between his notes. No one knows the reason
for his untimely death, if you can call death
a simple matter of bones, not the thick oil of memory left
on the fridge handle, the kitchen window
where she smashed the gnats. My grandmother
never learned to cook, but she filled her kitchen with hundreds
of roosters, perched in wait for the day she could break
their ceramic silence. Battalions arranged in the bellies
of unused appliances, or riding the spine
of the keyboard I never saw her play. She loved the button
that looped Eine kleine Nachtmusik through plastic speakers.
We loved to pound our own melodies over Mozart's
masterpiece, over her stories. I don't know who to blame
for the silence, so I sing. Can you hear me, Mema?
Mozart is the only one who understands.
Over take-out subs and tins of butter cookies, I hope
he is scribbling down your stories, and when his quill
strikes the words you are trying to speak,
I hope the rooster he plucked it from screams wildly.

New, Caroline Harper. "Patients Regain Song Before Speech. A History of Half-Birds: Poems. Milkweed Editions, 2024. 
You can read more about the poet here
Thanks for reading and joining us for our monthly Gathering of Poetry. You are more than welcome to add your link below if you would like to share one of your favorite poems. The more the merrier!

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  1. This is an unusual poem, but I totally get the feeling that you did -- there's that sense of nostalgia. I also think of my grandmother when I see those tins of butter cookies (though the ones my grandmother had only ever contained cookies; she was not particularly crafty). Thank you for sharing this poem and for bringing back some good memories for me!

  2. Oh. Gasp . . . That is just lovely, Bonny. Evocative. And wonderful.

  3. What an interesting poem - one that really makes you think! Beautiful images and beautiful nostalgia.

  4. I didn't have a grandmother that inspired nostalgia, but I really enjoyed this poem. It awakens lots of memories of important women in my past and spending time with them in their kitchens. Happy Thursday, Bonny! I am awaiting the arrival of sleet. I know this weather will end, but when? LOL

  5. Our grandmother's homes hold a special place in our hearts. I've got so many items that I had to have from her home sitting around my house that make me think of her every day. I hope my kids manage to find something in here that they want to pass on to their kids. My Grands are so young and I am so old. I wonder if they will even remember me at all.

    1. I bet your kids will find something to pass on and your grands will remember you even though they might be young. I will most likely not have grandchildren (and that's fine with me), but my kids have heard enough stories about my maternal grandmother that I hope they'll carry a few memories of her and maybe one or two of me also.

  6. I'll admit it took me more than one read to sort of get this one and I'm still not sure I do. But I also sort of love that. Thanks, Bonny.

  7. oh I LOVE it (Mozart is the only one who understands.) This one is going into my journal ... it's the kind of poem I'll find something new in every time I read it. Thank you!

  8. what a poem! I loved my gram and there are things that remind me of her and her only (tinfoil wrapping everything). I wonder what my grandkids will remember of me?


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