Poem for Poetry Thursday

Ugh. I hate posting late on Poetry Thursday. It really is my favorite day of the week.

I was thinking about the idea of worth. Specifically, I was thinking about it in reference to Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club. Know your worth. Those words run through my head all the time. As a middle-class black woman in Massachusetts, what is my worth as a poet? What is my story? And now that I am raising a daughter, who is second generation removed from the civil rights movement, how am I going to explain how important it is to value those things we take for granted. Poetry is a way into all of those complex subjects for me.

So I was thinking about all of this and wrote something completely different! How many times has that happened to me over the years. Oh well. Maybe I'm not ready to write about worth because I'm unsure of my own. Well, I'm unsure about where I fit into the scheme of things.

Kerning is an old print term that refers to the spacing between letters. I was thinking about family and words and came up with this.


Today I spent the morning
brushing pink crayon
from your teeth. This tells me
you know how to eat words.
You’ve tasted those intangible calories
that fill my cavernous heart.
You’re beginning to understand
how sloppy and brutal the imagination can be.
I put my fingers between pearly teeth
and yank petals of paper from your mouth.
Someday, I will teach you how to read
words that are not there,
show you how to breathe without
disturbing the air. Nothing lives
outside of us in this overprinted world.
Decide for yourself. Then let me know
if you can eat a crayon without leaving
a mark.

Also, read the previous post about Sharon Olds' poem, The Victims.


Oh, I love this poem! I can feel waxy crayon in my teeth when I read it. You've slain me two weeks in a row now! Keep on going, please!
jim said…
Yes, this overprinted world. Too much.

Oh January, today in fact, I wrote a very long e-mail to a newish poet and dear friend about the "what is it worth" question, and it is so unanswerable. And nothing more to offer than the ceaseless beating on . . . . But your notes in the bottle, now they are something for me. Always.
Kamsin said…
I think there is something here, and also in your comments about the Sharon Olds poem, something to do with the power of words. The way they change you, leave their mark. The way can impose a certain meaning and reality onto the world. They may control you, but you can also control them and a talented poet controls them more than anyone else. I don't know if that makes sense! Either way it's a great poem!
wendy said…
One thing I love about this poem, is the mixing of childish and adult concepts.Sloppy and brutal is a great turn of words.
twitches said…
I love that line about eating words. And a great ending, too. It's an unusual poem, so many turns that are unexpected. Yet it works. I like it.
Catherine said…
I love this poem, as I love nearly all of your poems - so many great lines: "overprinted world" struck me particularly
bb said…
Well - I started with a chuckle and ended with a tear - that's got to be the mark of a great poem in my book :-)

My favourite part is:

Someday, I will teach you how to read
words that are not there,
show you how to breathe without
disturbing the air.


x x x x x
paris parfait said…
Your poem just knocks me out! Really brilliant. Amy Tan's writing is powerful and I too remember that phrase from The Joy Luck Club (film). I think it's a struggle for all women, no matter our background, to remember our worth and value ourselves.
gkgirl said…
i needed this today.
For what it's worth: I think you are a genius of a poet!
twilightspider said…
Everything that you had to say this week really resonated with me - and your poem is just beautiful. These lines:

"You’ve tasted those intangible calories
that fill my cavernous heart."

That's just exactly what words are.
Bug said…
Nice job! This one is one that will stick with me, I know it. I love this line: Someday, I will teach you how to read
words that are not there,
show you how to breathe without
disturbing the air.
dick jones said…
A neat pun kicks off a tender meditation on language & meaning. A delightful poem. My only tiny caveat would be a preference for 'fingers' over 'hands'.
January said…
Dick Jones: Thanks for the suggestion. Yes, I like fingers better so I'll make the change.
Deb R said…
I'd never heard of the word "kerning" before this. I love your poem - everything about it!
my backyard said…
I love the image of eating words!
January said…
Thanks everyone for the kind words.
ecm said…
Gorgeous! I really like the pink crayon on the teeth and the overprinted world and reading words that aren't there...so many great images.

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