Friday Poem: Rebecca Palmer’s ‘Dear Grandma’ — now I have read the author’s note the poem shifts slightly on its axis


Dear Grandma

Albino, prune like
demoralizing the years
of hard work past,

B flat serenades
chitter chatter through
the teeth of an elephant.

African plains, vast, moonlit,
red eyes glinting –
is it Chopin’s waltz,

or your other love,

Poised, silent
“Shhh”, you whisper,
“Can you hear the musk deer?”


Author note: I wrote this poem from an exercise about describing a person’s hands in a workshop run by Joanna Preston. It was the beginning of summer, when the sun lingers on your shoulders in the evenings and instills in you a kind of thirst for adventure. The exercise got me thinking about how the world looks to a child and how, through the eyes of the young, the achievements of the elderly are merely fleeting impressions of an untouchable Savannah.

Author bio: Currently studying towards an undergraduate degree in English and Russian at Canterbury University. I have been published in The Fib Review.

Paula’s note: This poem hooked me. I love the surprising juxtaposition of detail and sound effects. Try, for example, writing a poem with a prune, B Flat, a grandmother, the African Plains, elephant’s teeth, the moon. This is an subtle portrait of a moment, a grandmother and a relationship. It reaches out from the intimacy of listening and sharing to the African plains — it is a poem of the wider world and the world at hand. I love the way a phrase (‘years/ of hard work past’) embeds a secret narrative that instils a sense of the buried lives of the elderly. I have used this analogy before, but this poem is like lacework: ethereal, delicate, intricate, as dependent upon holes as it is web. Interesting too how now that I have read the author’s note the poem shifts slightly on its axis. I like the idea of fleeting impressions through the eyes of a child.

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