When Presidential Inaugural Poet, author and civil engineer Richard Blanco was growing up in Miami with his Cuban-exile family during the early 70’s, he longed to be a “true American” like one of the kids in “The Brady Bunch.”
He describes it as living between two imagined worlds:
One world was the 1950s and ’60s Cuba of my parents and grandparents — that paradise, that homeland so near and yet so foreign to where we might return any day, according to my parents. A homeland that I had never seen . . .
The other, less obvious world was America . . . Typical of a child, I contextualized America through food, commercials, G-rated versions of our history in textbooks and television shows, especially The Brady Bunch. More than a fiction or fantasy, I truly believed that, just north of the Miami-Dade County line, every house was like the Brady house, and every family was like them.
Much of Blanco’s poetry centers around his search for cultural identity. Over and over, he asks the questions, “Where is my home? Where am I from? Where do I belong?”
When he was a graduate student at Florida International University, he wrote the following poem, inspired by a childhood memory of wanting an “authentic” Thanksgiving meal.
“Poetry allows us to cherish what we’re given. Whether it be a heartbreak, a second chance, a soft morning mist, a moment or . . . an onion, poetry, with its impossible-seeming combination of soft lens and precision, brings to our awareness that which might otherwise go unseen, unrecognized, un-cherished. Poetry opens us to life, to surprise, to shadow, to beauty, to insight.”
~ Naomi Shihab Nye
Happy to join my Poetry Friday friends today in celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye, who was just named the 2019-2021Young People’s Poet Laureate. An award winning poet, essayist, novelist, songwriter, educator, editor, and anthologist, Naomi calls herself “a wandering poet,” and is the first Arab American to earn this honor.
For the past 40+ years she’s traveled all over the country and the world leading workshops and inspiring students of all ages, using her own writing “to attest to our shared humanity.” She is currently Professor in Creative Writing-Poetry at Texas State University, and makes her home in San Antonio.
Naomi is a natural born poet; she wrote her first poem at age six. As Young People’s Poet Laureate, she will work to bring poetry to geographically underserved or rural communities. With her sensitivity, insight, cultural awareness, compassion and enormous heart, she is the seer and sage we need right now to show us how words can heal, unify, delight, and enlighten.
Is there anything more elegantly delicious than a freshly cooked meal served in a dining car?
THE DINING CAR OF THE SOUTHERN CRESCENT by John Campbell
The Southern Crescent
snakes its way through
the rolling fog shrouded
a young man on spring break,
returning home from
college, crosses the creaky
passageway that leads from
Pullmans to the dining car.
Breakfast smells give rise to
an ambitious order of fresh coffee,
country ham with red eye gravy,
grits, scrambled eggs and
biscuits with blackberry jam.
The waiter, agile and accomplished,
dressed in a white starched apron,
steadies himself against the swaying
motion of the train; with serving tray
in hand and balanced, he places the
piping hot breakfast on a table decked
with a linen table cloth, pewter
creamers, thick silverware, coffee
cups and saucers and plates, etched with
a crescent moon insignia; a small
bundle of daffodils sit in a crystal
vase near the window.
The young man with the vittles before him,
relishes a feeling of adult composure
and delight. “How could life be this good?”
A breakfast fit for a king, waiters
eager to please, railway views of
rural Carolina: tenant shanties,
grazing black angus, abandoned junkyards,
brownstone depots and sleepy towns.
He, still unfamiliar with the niceties
of the wealthy elite, or even the acquired
dignities of his college
professors, avows, while pouring
coffee from a silver carafe into
a Syracuse China cup, that the
dining car of the Southern Crescent
is a place of utmost refinement.
“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy donuts. And that’s kind of the same thing.” ~ Anonymous
They’re calling me again. I donut know why I can’t resist them.
Ring, filled, glazed, powdered, frosted with sprinkles — they’ve perfected their siren song. At least I’m not alone in this. 🙂
THE YEAR I LIVED ACROSS THE STREET FROM A 24-HOUR DUNKIN’ DONUTS by Edwin Romond
Each day of each month
like Odysseus with his sirens
I’d hear pastries calling, “Come over! Come over!”
and I’d picture glazed and blueberry
doughnuts, almond croissants and cinnamon
coffee rolls, apple fritters and chocolate
scones, and I feared an international crisis
if I ever said no to a Bavarian cream.
Sometimes at night with the moon white
as a powdered sugar munchkin
I’d wake and worry there was one
lonely toasted coconut doughnut left
in a tray all by himself and charity
would demand I get dressed, cross the street
and eat him. Oh, that year of Christmas
tree cookies, Old Glory sprinkles
on 4th of July muffins, and the faith
inspiring Ash Wednesday hot cross buns
that made me thank God for counter girls
who saved my seat by the window, bakers
who took midnight requests, and for Macy’s
who sold expandable stretch waist jeans.
~ This poem first appeared in The Stillwater Review
Since Dunkin’ Donuts originated in New England, it’s fitting that I had my first official DD there — in Bedford, New Hampshire, to be exact.
We were newly married and visiting Len’s family. I remember my father-in-law raving about DD’s coffee and chicken noodle soup. He never mentioned the donuts, though. It seems going out for DD coffee on a Saturday morning was THE thing to do.
We often stayed at Len’s brother’s house, and one morning Len picked up a box of munchkins for breakfast. Up until then, my little nephew — he might have been 2 or 3 years old at the time — had never eaten donuts in any form. Of course he LOVED them, calling them “Nonuts.” We didn’t know then that my SIL had been restricting his sweets. Oops.
So my first Dunkin’ Donut was actually a plain glazed munchkin, and I’ve been hooked ever since. They’re small and (you gotta admit) cute. There’s less of a guilt factor too. Whoever decided to call those donut holes “munchkins” was absolutely brilliant. Such an adorable name. There might even be scientific proof that eating munchkins makes you cuter. 😀
I love Romond’s poem because it’s so relatable. Though I’ve never lived right across the street from a donut shop, just having a Dunkin’ Donuts in the same town is dangerous enough. My highly refined donut radar can pick up those siren signals within a 30 mile radius, at least. So whenever I hear the cry of a cruller, the moanings of a marble frosted, or the lamentations of a long john, I feel it is my civic duty to come to the rescue. I know they long to be eaten. I just want to make them happy.
I would certainly not want to be the last and lonely toasted coconut donut left on the tray. Poor thing. I may be cowardly with some things, but putting donuts out of their misery isn’t one of them. Mine, like Mr. Romond’s, is a noble calling.
What’s your favorite donut? 🙂
The lovely and talented Tara Smith is hosting the Roundup at Going to Walden. Take her a chocolate frosted donut and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week. Have a nice weekend (eat lots of DONUTS)!