Saturday, February 27, 2010
MY MOTHER MEETS JOAN BAEZ AT THE DOLLAR STORE
(photo by Zoni 4316)
My mother doesn’t recognize Joan’s face, but is drawn by its light.
She asks if Joan has seen the Baby’s First Banks, made of glass – her word for “ceramic.” Joan hasn’t noticed them.
Joan is distracted. My mother doesn’t notice. Mom tells her, “You look real pretty, Hon. You remind me of the Blessed Mother.” Joan laughs. It’s been a long time since she was accused of being virginal, much less holy.
Dylan comes on the radio station playing at the cashier’s counter. Joan winces. The song is “A Simple Twist Of Fate.” Joan selects a big sharp knife.
Mom, walking down the aisle away from Joan, laughs at Dylan’s nasality. She knows neither the voice, nor the song.
Nobody in the store knows who Joan is, so no one worries she might chain herself to something to protest sweat shops in China, where nearly all the merchandise was made.
Some of the customers know my mother, though. They get a chuckle out of her behavior.
The employees, while ignoring Joan, all keep a wary eye on Mom.
-- © 2010 by Jack Veasey
All rights reserved. No one may reproduce or otherwise duplicate this work without the author's written permission.
This prose poem doesn't tell a factual story, though I think it's pretty plausible. The events described did all happen to my mother one time when I took her to the dollar store, a favorite place, during her struggle with Alzheimer's -- but Joan Baez, of course, wasn't there. I did meet Joan once at a post-concert press conference in the early 70s, but that's another story.
This was inspired by an exercise my friend, the great poet Edward Field, has given to students on occasion. The concept is that you write a poem telling a story of how a relative of yours met a famous person -- including the setting where they met. The story is supposed to be imaginary (although occasionally it has evoked true stories). My friend Denise Duhamel has also written a poem from this exercise. I'd convinced myself that the exercise was also the subject of a chapter in one of my favorite poetry writing books, The Practice of Poetry by Behn & Twitchell, but I just went through the whole book and couldn't find it in there. The book is very helpful, and you might want to check it out anyway.