Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fifth Grade Autobiography - Rita Dove

I was four in this photograph fishing
with my grandparents at a lake in Michigan.
My brother squats in poison ivy.
His Davy Crockett cap
sits squared on his head so the raccoon tail
flounces down the back of his sailor suit.

My grandfather sits to the far right
in a folding chair,
and I know his left hand is on
the tobacco in his pants pocket
because I used to wrap it for him
every Christmas.  Grandmother's hips
bulge from the brush, she's leaning
into the ice chest, sun through the trees
printing her dress with soft
luminous paws.

I am staring jealously at my brother;
the day before he rode his first horse, alone.
I was strapped in a basket
behind my grandfather.
He smelled of lemons.  He's died -

but I remember his hands.

I mostly like this poem for the very last line.  Hands are fascinating, and every person's hand tells the story of their life.  Looking at my hands, I can see some calluses and toughened skin in the spots where my trombone touches my hand.  It's a trombone mark, and I like it.  My hands are also very large, which is in itself a memorable feature.  And they're always warm, even in winter, and other people use my hands like heaters.  I like my hands, and I like to think that someday, a grandchild of mine might remember them when I'm gone.

My life never overlapped with that of either of my grandfathers, which is another thing about this poem that fascinates me.  I don't know what it's like, really, to have a grandfather.  The stories I've heard about them, both paternal and maternal, make me really wish I had met them.  I can really see where I came from, hearing those stories.  It's my hope that someday, I'll be a grandfather to someone, and can pass on what I know to some child.  I hope he or she remembers my hands.

1 comment:

  1. man, i too know what it's like (or, not like) to have no attachment to grandparents. never knew my grandfathers, lost both grandmothers before age 8

    thanks for making me think about it in this fashion