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  • April 22nd, 2010 | 12:52 AM
30 Poems in 30 Days - FAMILY TREE


My personal challenge for National Poetry Month is to write
a poem a day about the father I have never known.


FAMILY TREE

In Mrs. Mullin's class
we studied genetics
and how sometimes
we turn out like our parents
because of what our
cells did and didn't do
before we were born.

We brought in pictures
and made charts about
the color of our eyes
and the color of our hair.
Kyle Williams had red
hair and his mom and his dad
and his two brothers
and his aunt Agie
all had red hair too.

For the last assignment
we made trees as tall as we were
out of brown paper bags
and taped them to the wall.

Then we cut leaves out of
green construction paper and
wrote names on every leaf
about who we were
and who are parents were
and where we came from.

Kyle had so many red-headed
relatives he needed extra leaves
for his tree.

Day after day
leaves filled the trees
telling the names of people
and where they were born
going back farther and farther
until there were so many leaves on the walls of the room
that it looked like spring had just burst out
right in the middle of our class.

My tree was lopsided.
The left side, my mom's side,
had lots of leaves,
so many you could barely see the wall behind them.
But the right side of the tree had just two,
my father's name,
my grandmother's name.
No birthdays.
No birthplace.
No more branches on the family tree.

On back to school night
while the parents oohed and aahed
over the forest of families
I stood with my back against the wall
my head tucked up
under the leaf with my father's name
and pretended
I had nothing to hide.


@copyright Susan Taylor Brown 2010
    All Rights Reserved
There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.



Comments

( 10 comments — Leave comment )
jeannineatkins
April 22nd, 2010 11:12 am (UTC)
I know teachers often struggle with holidays like mothers day and fathers day -- and apparently even genetics lessons, and you show why. What a powerful ending. I love the way your poems often do that, ending with power and an echo.
susanwrites
April 22nd, 2010 04:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Jeannine. I'm actually looking forward to the end of the month when I can take all these first draft poems and go through them again, hopefully polishing them even more.
jamarattigan
April 22nd, 2010 12:06 pm (UTC)
Wow, I love this! Like Jeannine said, the ending is so powerful -- I kept reading and reading to see what would happen, and then, it went straight to the heart. This HAS to be a book. There are so many kids who need to read this.
susanwrites
April 22nd, 2010 04:26 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Jama. I'm playing with some titles for a book idea now. (I can't think of it as an actual book project without a title.) I think the big problem right now is trying to decide if it should be a story, in which case I need a story arc, or a collection of poems.
boreal_owl
April 22nd, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
Heartrending. Good use of tree, branch and leaf metaphor. I hope teachers find some other way to teach genetics to children.
susanwrites
April 24th, 2010 06:43 am (UTC)
Thank you. I hope they do too. It was painful!
jeniwrites
April 22nd, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
I really felt for you and for all kids for whom projects like this are a struggle when I read your poem.

I liked the line, "Kyle had so many red-headed
relatives he needed extra leaves for his tree," too.
susanwrites
April 24th, 2010 06:43 am (UTC)
Thanks, Jeni. Any of these sorts of projects were always so tough for me.
(Anonymous)
April 22nd, 2010 05:26 pm (UTC)
tanita says:
...and this is why, when I was teaching, that I didn't do family trees. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Many African American families have trouble going back more than two generations... and if your Dad was illegitimate...?
susanwrites
April 24th, 2010 06:44 am (UTC)
Re: tanita says:
Good for you not forcing students to do such a thing, Tanita. And yes, what if your Dad was illegitimate? The whole thing was a giant FAIL to me and just made me feel even more inadequate than I already did.
( 10 comments — Leave comment )
WHO AM I?



Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

Who am I? A wife, a mother, a daughter, and even, gulp, a grandmother.

Who am I? A writer who never gets tired of playing with words, even when the words are hard to find. A writer of books for children and articles for grown-ups and many things in-between.

Who am I? A motivational speaker, writing instructor, workshop leader and full-time follower of dreams.

Who am I? Read and find out.






Susan Taylor Brown

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