Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wallpaper (Nana)

My Nana was not fearless

at all. The way this story goes

when she was young was asked

to chaperon her brother and his fiancée

she refused to climb in the boat.

She feared she might drown:

“my brother, she said, has no idea

how to row or handle a boat”. True,

but this was the lake in the public garden.

The water so deep, it won’t pass over

the hips of a ten year old.

But she must fear God more

than she fears people. On beggars she

taught me: ”poor souls”.(She knew misery

in the world war.)She handed small coins as

she cut noodles or baked holy bread for service

My Nana, I need an answer glued

Wallpaper, picturepaper in my old album

"would she fear?" like I do

now that I faced the one

fake beggar , most pitiful robber

Since I had this unpleasant experience with a local panhandler which made me reconsider giving change to them. The problem I have now: this form of human compassion was part of my core…And of course there is organized giving. But this takes away this genuine spontaneous gesture you can make when feeling blessed and wishing to make others feel just the same way….

Note: my Nana was my great aunt . And, if you red this and are unfamiliar with the Byzantin rite, I shall point that to bake holy bread one has to be a virgin.


Paul Oakley said...

What a complicated problem is at the heart of this poem!

I've just returned to my small town from a month in Chicago, where, along streets of some of the most expensive real estate in the USA, the homeless and other poor people panhandle. I tried to treat them as people deserving of dignity rather than as statistics to be ignored, but a single individual can never do very much in the face of such a huge social and economic issue.

The problems represented by the presence of panhandlers are overpowering even before you come up against the robber posing so as to disarm the well-meaning victim.

Thanks for poetically sharing your quandry. We ask a variety of questions, but we all need some answers.

I particularly appreciate the narrative image of your Nana refusing the task of chaperon out of unreasoned fear. It's a beautiful parallel to your feeling "thrown from the boat" via-a-vis helping the poor freely.

rallentanda said...

I'm with Nana on the spontaneous gesture.Love the boat story..gave me a good laugh.Colourful characters like this are too few.

Anonymous said...

It's a lovely, loving portrait.
If I may suggest, you're asking the wrong question. It ought to be WHAT would she fear.

Ana said...


thank you for your kind words.
You are right it does not help the big issues, but I had always thought:"what if it is me who needs a dollar to make it to work until the next pay?"
She was from the old world, what can I say more...
She was far from being fearless. She would fear getting robed in a dark alley. She would fear ridicule too. She was afraid to buy books after her bookcase with all her books burned with the house in world war II (she was not in the house, fortunately).

anthonynorth said...

This is very deep - something to think deeply about.

SOL said...

This is the type of poem that I would love to see as part of a series about fear. I really responded to the voice and tone of it and can see it being expanded successfully.

Wayne Pitchko said...

nicely done..thanks for this

Julie said...

Hi, Ana. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to come visit. Life has been crazy lately. I'm glad to be here now, though, because I love the portrait of your Nana. The part about the public lake made me laugh. I love her compassion. What a sweet woman.

A friend was baffled with me last week when I gave a panhandler a dollar. She said he would just use it to buy wine. I said, "Well, then let him have his wine." In other words, my dollar will not make or break him, but the fact that he's begging for money breaks my heart, regardless of his situation.

I wasn't familiar with the Byzantine rite of baking bread. That is very interesting. Thanks for another great read!

Tumblewords: said...

Big questions. Wonderful writing.

Ana said...

thank you
I'll try to visit you page soon. I am glad you could find a good core idea in it
thank you
she was sweet. definitely different from most people today.
The requirement only applies to baking holy bread, the one used in church for service, and not to regular bread though:)

thank you