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november poem-a-day, day 12

November 12, 2010

This poem has nothing to do with Portland.

This poem has nothing to do with love.

Pick your chin up off the floor. 🙂

While I was in Portland (stick with me, I promise it’s not a Portland poem), I spent a few hours at the art museum. In the underground hall that connects the museum’s two buildings, I saw several works by Alice Neel, who was new to me, and I really loved her painting of a turkey carcass in the kitchen sink. When I saw that it was named “Thanksgiving,” I loved it even more. I thought, “That’s honesty.” (You can see a teeny tiny version of the painting here in this article.)

This morning, I brainstormed as I often do to get started with the prompts for the November Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge. Today’s prompt — Day 12! — is to write a “forget what they say” poem (turn familiar sayings on their heads, for example). Initially, I thought I would write a poem about how my weeks in Portland have been almost entirely without rain (“they say it always rains here, but …”). I knew I’d be saving that for another day (saving it for a “rainy” day? Ha!) when I started thinking about the holidays not being about what people say they are about. And I remembered Neel’s painting.



Revision notes: Work on line breaks and the rhythm (it’s clunky in the last third at least).

  1. November 12, 2010 4:12 pm

    Man, Carolee, this is one potent poem. Thanksgiving is more polarizing than the Christmas/Hanukkah contest in my first family, when I married a Jewish guy but didn’t convert.

    For families like the above, it’s the only day we all get together to talk (around issues no ones dares bring up) (about each other in whispers just out of earshot). For others, the politics of the day I refer to as Day of Repentance for Foisting Smallpox-infected Blankets Off On Indigenous Peoples, it’s a day I try to forget my dad’s people came over on the Mayflower. That makes me part of Patient Zero’s bloodline.

    You depiction of the waxworks girl, so detached, is striking. I loved this poem. You’ll work out the flow later – for now, it’s worth seeing the edited version in PRINT! In a CHAPBOOK!

    Peace, Amy BL.

  2. November 12, 2010 9:21 pm

    Ah, a fine piece – evocative of many family ‘celebrations’ which lance boils built during the previous year.

  3. November 13, 2010 12:51 am

    Oh gosh, Carolee, family holidays aren’t all that they are cracked up to be, are they? Nor are neighborhoods idyllic. There is always an underside. (I am doing PAD too. It’s been quite a trip so far. I always miss it when it’s over.)

  4. November 13, 2010 3:39 am

    This outpouring has all the elements of a historic poem: I don’t know about revisions – just don’t lose the power and impact of it.

  5. November 13, 2010 7:42 am

    Very far from clunky anywhere, Carolee. This is a keeper of real power and impact. It reads with all the immediacy of an on-the-spot news report, but it sits on a dark and unsettling subtext. Which is exactly what all poetry of substance should do. Damn fine, this!

  6. November 13, 2010 12:02 pm

    Powerful. Leaves me feeling a little sick.

  7. November 13, 2010 4:03 pm

    This was so creepily GOOD! From the horrible crimes of the guests, to the last “clots of cranberry sauce” it kept me hooked! (maybe things like this are why I am not fond of forced holidays…)

  8. November 13, 2010 7:58 pm

    I adore this poem. And it’s no less creepy than many a lovely family. I got all goose-bumpy (dead-turkey-in-the-sink-skin-bumpy) with the title and the sub title. The poem delivered.

    This is a holy-crap poem of the best kind.

  9. November 14, 2010 4:43 pm

    Wow, Carolee–this is so dark and wonderful. Touches a nerves with many people, I suspect. I’m a bit envious that I didn’t write it.

    Victoria C-S

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