Friday, May 16, 2008

Summer Ritual: An Original Poem

A few weeks ago, I posted Crocheting, a poem from an unpublished collection of memoir poems I wrote entitled A Home for the Seasons. The poem was about my maternal grandmother. Today I’m posting Summer Ritual, another poem from the collection about Dzidzi, my grandfather, and his garden. Every time my mother and I visited with my grandparents during the summers when I was a child and a young adult, Dzidzi took great pleasure in having me come down to his garden to pick some vegetables or fruit to take home with us.

By Elaine Magliaro

My mother and I arrive at my grandparents’ house

late one Sunday afternoon.

Babci greets us in the kitchen

With glasses of cold drinks clinking with ice cubes.

Dzidzi fetches a small wooden basket

from the cellar, takes my hand,

and walks me down the stone path to his garden.

He leans over a tomato plant,

holds a fat red globe in his cupped hand,

and looks at me. I nod approval.

I can almost taste the tomato’s warm, juicy flesh.

We choose a dozen more and place them in the basket.

We pick three green, glossy-skinned peppers,

pull up a bunch of feather-topped carrots,

enough beets for my mother to make a pot of zimny barszcz

thickened with sour cream and floating with cucumber slices.

Every visit to my grandparents’ house

is the same this season—

a small harvest of vegetables—

and when we leave, I take home

a little basket of Dzidzi’s garden.


At Blue Rose Girls, I have Happiness, a poem by the late Jane Kenyon.

Two Writing Teachers have the Poetry Friday Roundup.


John Mutford said...

I really appreciate that you've written this in the present tense.

Anonymous said...

That's a gorgeous poem. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Sara said...

One of the best pictures I have of my daughter is her with a fistful of green beans from my mother's garden.

How lovely you have these memories.

Elaine Magliaro said...


I had originally written the poems in the past tense. Janet Wong suggested I rewrite them in the present tense. I always listen to her writing advice.


Thanks. I loved the poem you wrote about your grandmother.


I have so many wonderful memories of the times spent at my grandparents' house.

I hope you enjoyed your break from blogging so you could spend time with your daughter.

tanita✿davis said...

I think the present works best as well. That way, one can still feel the warmth on the tomatoes and together with the child-sized you, feel the special, beloved grandchild intimacy you got to enjoy. This is really nice.

How do you pronounce Dzidzi? Zidzee?

Elaine Magliaro said...


It's kind of difficult to spell the pronunciation of dzidzi phonetically. Let me try: djijee. That comes about as close to spelling it the way I pronounce/pronounced it.

Anonymous said...

As I prepared to plant in the garden, I see the red globes and the feathered topped carrots. The beet dish sounds intriguing. How lucky you were to know your grandfather and enjoy his graden.

Elaine Magliaro said...


My grandparents' house was my home away from home. Two of my first cousins lived on the other side of their duplex. The three of us were like best friends growing up.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that little basket of garden. How delicious. In a million little ways...

Elaine Magliaro said...


Many of my happiest childhood memories are about the "simple little" things I did--picking vegetables from my grandfather's garden, eating my grandmother's delicious homemade babka fresh from the oven, chewing on green apples with my cousins.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I love these poems you write about your grandparents and memories. There really is not enough *good* writing out there with such multi-generational characters, the experience between grandchild and grandparent.


jama said...

What a lovely, heartfelt poem. The bond between you and your grandfather really shines through.

Anonymous said...

The recasting of this into the present tense makes the memory that much stronger. I know it's from memory, and yet the impact is strengthened by your use of tense and description of the vegetables. Lovely.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Jules and Jama,

I was fortunate to have my grandparents well into my adulthood--and my daughter was fortunate to have known three of her great grandparents. I'm glad the bond between a grandchild and grandparent comes through in this poem.


I agree about "telling" the poems in the present tense. Thanks for your comments.

Anonymous said...

Elaine, this is beautiful. I completely agree with present tense. I think multi-generational poems told in past tense (this is a huge generalization, I realize) tend toward sounding too nostalgic. By making it present tense, it is contemporary. It could be happening at the house next door to me, right now. I love that last line. Excellent!

Elaine Magliaro said...


I agree that in the past tense the poems would seem/seemed too nostalgic. With the present tense, they appear to be told by a young girl--and not an old lady reminiscing about her past. I'm so glad Janet gave me the suggestion to change the tense of my verbs.