National Poetry Month: A Trade

April 15th, 2013

We continue our Poetry Month celebration with a poem by Lynne Dorfman. She also shares how the poem came to life. Revisit our previous National Poetry Month posts and don’t forget to download our free e-book filled with dozens of tips on teaching poetry.

A Trade

npm2013_logoPoetry is everywhere you look. Last night I started reading The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult and realized that one of her characters, Rocco, speaks in three short sentences or phrases that match the syllable count of haiku. Earlier that day I had downloaded an article, “Mastering Metaphor through Poetry” by Judith W Steinbergh, from Narrative magazine.

The rebirth of my garden and the woods behind my house speaks to me of poems waiting to be written, and I itch to open my new writer’s notebook and get it started with a poem. But today I do not write the garden or woodlands poem. Today I write about my Raggedy Ann doll and my biggest writing territory, my grandfather. He has always been the deep well I return to when I revisit my writer’s notebooks to find ideas I can explore and develop. Today, however, my notebooks do not provide the stimulus to write. As my gaze passes between Ga Ga’s photo (our name for him) and the little doll leaning against a portion of the silver frame, I know a poem is blooming in my mind’s garden. I grab the nearest pen and notebook, find an empty page, and begin to scribble furiously.

After some revision—deleting a few lines, changing the verb form, substituting for stronger nouns and verbs—I am ready to share with you.

A Trade

By Lynne R. Dorfman

Raggedy Ann kept Grandpa company,
Traveling to work with him.
I stood on the curbside,
Jumping up and down . . .
Stretching to watch the old Dodge
Crawl-crawl-craaaaawl in turtle fashion
Down the friendly Emmaus street.
Grandpa waving Raggedy Ann out the window,
Grandma clutching my hand to keep me safe.

At twilight they would return,
Shining with stories about their day.
Minnie (that’s what I called her)
And Grandpa had deliciously delicious tales.
Allentown Plumbing and Heating Supply,
A bustling place filled with mostly men.
I was secretly greener-than-green with envy.
I wished I could have traded places.
I wished I could have been that doll.

I yearned for all her adventures,
The fun she had each day with Grandpa.
Now, every day, I see her nestled on my dresser,
My eyes lingering on the photo beside her.
The silvery hair and the too-much-time-in-the-sun face,
The hazel eyes that match my own and the high brow,
The strong hands that often held a rake or a saw,
The wisdom earned from being a stepfather and grandfather.
Wish I could trade that doll for Grandpa.




Entry Filed under: Writing

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. linda Baie  |  April 15th, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I love the poem, the story in it, the details of you at home & Raggedy Ann off with Grandpa, to be able to tell about the day spent in stories to you at supper time. Grandparents give such a layer of contentedness to their grandchildren-special!

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