Poem for April 20

For today’s poem, my usual source at Writer’s Digest challenges us to write a beyond poem. “The poem could be beyond human comprehension,” Robert Lee Brewer writes. “It could be from the great beyond. It could be from beyond–another city, country, planet, solar system, dimension, etc. Don’t be afraid to go above and beyond with it.”

For my offering, I am reconstructing from memory a poem I wrote in third grade as a school assignment. My teacher was so impressed (I believe she used the word “precocious” several times), she had the principal read it over the loudspeaker. My mother was so unimpressed she immediately threw it away. I’ve tried to be faithful to the original as I wrote it; however, with the passage of time, some of the lines have faded from memory. I’ve had to reconstruct those as best I could. Others, however, are recorded here exactly as I wrote them.

A few people may wonder how a third-grade child could possibly possess such a vocabulary. Here’s the quick answer: I come from a long line of educators, I read constantly as a child while my classmates were busily developing their athletic and social skills, and I was always the classic bookworm: painfully shy, slightly nerdy, and infinitely more savvy about how to diagram a sentence than how to hang upside down by the knees on the monkey bars.

That’s how.

First, then, the assignment, which probably every school child in America has done at some point: First we read the famous poem “Nancy Hanks” by Rosemary Benet. Then we read the response by Julius Silberger. Our assignment was to write our own response to Nancy Hanks. Mine, titled “Beyond Your Wildest Dreams,” appears immediately below.

Nancy Hanks

Rosemary Benet

If Nancy Hanks
Came back as a ghost,
Seeking news
Of what she loved most,
She’d ask first
“Where’s my son?
What’s happened to Abe?
What’s he done?”
“Poor little Abe,
Left all alone
Except for Tom,
Who’s a rolling stone;
He was only nine
The year I died.
I remember still
How hard he cried.”
“Scraping along
In a little shack,
With hardly a shirt
To cover his back,
And a prairie wind
To blow him down,
Or pinching times
If he went to town.”
“You wouldn’t know
About my son?
Did he grow tall?
Did he have fun?
Did he learn to read?
Did he get to town?
Do you know his name?
Did he get on?”
*  *  *

A Reply to Nancy Hanks

Julius Silberger

Yes, Nancy Hanks,
The news we will tell
Of your Abe
Whom you loved so well.
You asked first,
“Where’s my son?”
He lives in the heart
Of everyone.
 *  *  *

And here was mine:


Beyond Your Wildest Dreams*

 Ann Louise Graham, age 8

If indeed Nancy Hanks were among us today,
What news would I give her? What words would I say?
That her son grew up tall, and he learned how to read,
And his work saw a nation’s oppressed people freed.
“What’s happened to Abe?” Nancy asks. “What’s he done?”
He’s a lasting example to most everyone.
With his words on our lips, in our minds and our hearts,
His ideal never falters, nor ever departs.
You questioned us, Nancy, for news of your son.
Yes, Abe Lincoln got on, Nancy Hanks. He got on.
*a reconstruction

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Filed under classroom, Essays, Poetry, Quick takes, writing

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