National Poetry Month…was last month

April is National Poetry Month. Despite my being an English teacher for 8 years, this is really the first year I’ve actually known this and in some ways, lived it. I am trying to put some of my poetic energy to “paper” because I feel pretty invigorated by the events I attended recently:

  • Louder Than a Bomb: an annual poetry competition mentioned in the hair post.
  • Writing Outside the Fence: a class my friend Tim taught for a month in Mondawmin Mall. For last week’s meeting, he shared some unconventional poets’ works and we wrote and shared our poetry from widely varying experiences.
  • Be Free Fridays: a monthly open mic night at the Eubie Blake Cultural Center on Howard Street, an absolutely incredible and many times hilarious display of superb artists and poets who give of themselves willingly (including my friend Steph).
  • Non-Competitive Poetry Slam: On Friday, May 5, the Month After National Poetry Month celebration continued with a non-competitive poetry slam at my school.

If you’re local, you should seriously consider checking out all of the above or, just make the trip to Baltimore. 🙂

(Resisting the urge to type “anyway,” don’t type “anyway,” don’t type “anyway.”)

My maternal grandfather has been popping into my head a lot lately and had I not been to these events, it may not occur to me that the way to express this is through poetry. But I’m grateful because a poem about him feels perfect. Grandpop died on August 22, 2015, two days before I started my current job and we opened a school for the first time. It was among the most emotional and confusing sets of 48 hours I can recall. He was not an easy person but that’s what always made me work for his amusement, approval, and love. Here’s to that man we miss–I’m going to aim to explain why (I know my mom and sister have already started crying).

Grandpop in the army.JPG

Vincent A. Papa

Grandpop First Day of School.JPG

Grandpop and Amanda and Aubs.JPG


I can close my eyes and conjure.

How everything stayed the same.

A perfect, persistent memory,

Of a house and a man.

To me, they are one.

I’ve gone back once but it’s hard,

Without him in that place he seemed like he’d always be.

Park on the street under “Nancy’s tree,”

Up the walk to see him sitting on that porch chair.

Rocking. Staring. Silent.

Then, “How’s your car?”

I can see a slight stain I made on the window sill,

Some balloon project with Aubrey, a hundred years ago.

Through that storm door,

The old and sturdy kind that would actually hold back a storm.

I can see his scalp showing through the window,

To see that it’s us.

I deeply know the smell of his house,

Sweet. Comfort. Perfect pink carpet.

It smelled like peace.

The current newspaper barely touched on the table.

The way the sun begged to enter the living room,

Only a few rays allowed to pass through.

I breathe in toast in the kitchen and “buns” in the microwave.

Peach buns from Woodlea Bakery. Where else?

Tiny 4 ounce cups of soda,

Avocado-colored plates,

And pearlescent Palmolive from the pump.

Shiny rooster statues,

Shellacked with care and displayed with pride.

The sound of that wooden trash can lid fitting into place,

It always seemed like it wouldn’t fit.

He’d never allow that.

That row of clown dolls above the knotty pine basement walls,

The click of opening the movie cabinet,

Housing all of Julia Roberts’ blockbusters.

I remember that time I lost “Welcome to Mooseport.”

It was not okay.

His cotton hued hair,

Combed in gentle waves,

Like Cefalu’s Tyrrhenian Sea,

He’d never see.

I’d catch him looking at his arms and hands.

That olive Sicilian skin.

One of the best gifts he gave me.

I wish he’d seen its origin.

His face was cleanly shaven and smooth,

Smoother than an octogenarian’s.

That Roman nose,

With a tiny tilt to the side,

Like all of his descendants.

Me included.

How he would fix his teeth.


The sound of them clicking, click, click, close.

I listened for it.

The phone sometimes stole the silence.

He was a screener.


Then, “Please. Leave. A. Message. After. The. Tone.”

“It’s always for her,” he said always.

I wonder if he said that when we called too.

I miss his slow blink.

From that blue chair,

He’d look down at the floor.

What was he wondering?

And his aphorisms.

“Why do you laugh so much?”

“You drink too much water.”

“Stop talking.”

“Why do you ask so many questions?”

Mom and Aub and I would giggle,

And what we meant was,

You’re a riddle and we want to know you.

And the one we taught him: “I love you.”

It took years.

He’d drag out the youuu like it made him,

Just a little uncomfortable he had to make it sound a little silly.

But I’m proud.

And he taught me persistence.

In his own stubborn way.

Joe and Grandpop.JPG


4 thoughts on “National Poetry Month…was last month

  1. I’m amazed at how much detail you remember – your sweet description made me like I had been inside your Prandpop’s house. BTW…I’m teary too!
    Have an awesome poetry event tonight!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That was lovely, he would be proud to be remembered that way.
    Here is a link to my favorite rainy day poem, Kathy’s song by Paul Simon, I hear the drizzle of the rain, like a memory it falls…….

    See you tonight!


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