"I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I'm doing." - John Cage

Friday, November 30, 2012

30 Poems in 30 Days: Day Thirty Prompt

Poetry Pairings is a blog on New York Times that combines a poem with a piece from The Times that in some way echoes, extends or challenges the words and themes of the poem.
Kelle Groom’s poem Swerve is featured on the blog paired with a news article about the first Native American Saint canonized by the Catholic Church.  Read her poem and the article, and consider what is created by the pairing:
What does this pairing say about life today? What do the two pieces have in common? Do you think someone looking at it 25 years from now would “get” the same meaning? What about 100 years from now?
Now, write your own poem in response to an article you find today. You could write in your own voice or a character in the article.

Swerve By Kelle Groom
I think of the man who sat
behind my grandmother’s sister
in church and told her
the percentage of Indian
in her blood, calling it out
over the white pews.
I wonder what made
him want to count it
like coins or a grade.
I wish I could hear him
now when I think of her
saying that all
the Wampanoag blood
in her body would
fit in one finger,
discounting the percentage
it seemed, but why was she
such a historian, tracing
the genealogy of the last
Wampanoag up to her own
children, typing it all on see-through
paper? Maybe like me
she felt a little self-conscious
caring about what
we’re made of
instead of simply being
satisfied dressing
our bodies and driving
them around.
Maybe she felt shy
for loving someone
she’d never met, I mean
I do. I think of the knife
cutting into flesh
and the fork carrying it
to your mouth.
I always think
of that, the scythe-
like movement,
single motion, a swerve.
I think of my relative, the last
Wampanoag in the town,
walking the streets
with a dollar
the town gave him.
Even then what would
a dollar buy, a finger
of land? If an Indian
could have bought land.
I think of walking
into the almshouse. The alms
falling like figs from trees,
something to gnaw on.
I think of the first time
of thanks
before it had a name,
when it was just some
relatives of mine keeping
some relatives of yours
alive through a cold winter,
people stupid enough
to take food from a graveyard,
food meant for the dead.

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