Saturday, April 26, 2014

Our Wonderful World.26

Details of my Poetry Month Project can be found here.

The Birdhouse in the Sycamore Tree

The summer between 5th and 6th grade,
I fell out of the sycamore tree
that stood in the alley
outside the back garden fence.

There was a birdhouse in the sycamore.
I wanted to get it down.
I had climbed up to check it out
and the rope that tied it was weathered into a
rock solid knot.

I got the silver bottle opener –
the one with the shiny sharp triangle
for poking and prying –
out of the kitchen gadget drawer.

I climbed the fence and then into the sycamore
with the bottle opener
clenched between my teeth.

I remember the surprise I felt
when the branch broke,
but I don’t remember falling
or hitting the fence on the way down.
I came to with the bottle opener
still between my

My right arm was a different matter.

I began 6th grade,
already awkward and buck-toothed
with a full cast on my right arm.
I’m right handed.

And on the first day of school,
Mrs. Bonner,
cold as the polar ice caps,
made me pass out the Scholastic book orders.

I struggled with those tissue-paper fliers,
stared at and and snickered at
but stubbornly refusing to ask for help.

I can’t remember if I ever got the bird house
out of the tree,
but I’ll never forget how Mrs. Bonner
treated me.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

I couldn't bear to write about human destruction of the polar ice caps.  Kevin came through. He wrote a passionate ode to the ice caps that includes a fierce warning to humankind. Powerful.

Carol's polar ice cap poem is just as powerful as Kevin's, but in a "take you by the shoulders and shake you" kind of way.

Carol has an abecedarian for Victoria Falls over at Carol's Corner.


  1. I'm struck by the storytelling of your poem, and how the human experience as metaphor works on mysterious levels when it comes to poetry.
    Your last stanza -- perfect.

    I can’t remember if I ever got the bird house
    out of the tree,
    but I’ll never forget how Mrs. Bonner
    treated me.


  2. This poem reveals you in so many new ways, Mary Lee--why DID you want to get the bird house down? And it also reminds me of that wonderful, poignant Countee Cullen poem, "Incident at Baltimore," which speaks to the experiences that are forever memorable to a child. Thank you for sharing your Bonner pass!

    1. Why indeed? Probably just because it was there. Five grades after this story, I fell in love with Don Quixote.

      (And for the record, names were changed to protect the innocent.)

  3. So interesting to see how you built this poem, Mary Lee - you prepared us in some way for the shock of :
    "Mrs. Bonner,
    cold as the polar ice caps"
    ...and the power of memory to recall what is inexplicable and unforgettable.

  4. Sometimes people's cruelty absolutely takes my breath away, in a punched in the stomach kind of way. This incident does that. I love how you have transformed the experience into a poem. A great example of a narrative poem to share with students.

    Here's mine for today:

    1. Talk about taking your breath away -- that's what your poem does to me! Zow. And still I drive my car. And still I buy fruit from Chile. It's not that I don't care, it's just that it doesn't seem like it would change anything if I gave up everything I do that leaves a carbon footprint. And yet for anything to change at all, we ALL need to sacrifice. But when will that happen?

      It's circular and despair-making. Thank you for a poem that rages with specificity.


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