Friday, January 21, 2011

Poetry Friday: In the Elementary School Choir


I love Gregory Djanikian's poems, and have posted several before. (Here, here, and here.)

The poem I've chosen for today is about where home is, and about feeling at home in a place that isn't where your family originally came from. I know a lot about this subject from personal experience, having lived in several countries, and I have students who know all about it too. I love the way Djanikian describes himself in choir, singing the quintessentially American songs but conjuring up mental pictures for himself which are quite different from what the lyricists intended.

In the Elementary School Choir

by Gregory Djanikian

I had never seen a cornfield in my life,
I had never been to Oklahoma,
But I was singing as loud as anyone,
“Oh what a beautiful morning. . . . The corn
Is as high as an elephant’s eye,”
Though I knew something about elephants I thought,
Coming from the same continent as they did,
And they being more like camels than anything else.

And when we sang from Meet Me in St. Louis,
“Clang, clang, clang went the trolley,”
I remembered the ride from Ramleh Station
In the heart of Alexandria
All the way to Roushdy where my grandmother lived,
The autos on the roadway vying
With mule carts and bicycles,
The Mediterranean half a mile off on the left,
The air smelling sharply of diesel and salt.

Here's the rest of the poem.

And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.

6 comments:

Janet said...

Great poem.

Mary Lee said...

One of my students has been back home in Jordan for several weeks. This poem will help me remember how he might be processing all things American as we study strange things like prehistoric Native Ohioans.

laurasalas said...

Oh, I love this one. Just put it in my Save folder. Thanks!

Tara said...

“This is my country,” we sang,
And a few years ago there would have been
A scent of figs in the air, mangoes,
And someone playing the oud along a clear stream."
Love those lines - they conjure up what was most memorable about what was once his homeland.

B.C. said...

I just wrote about allusions this week and this poem is a perfect fit. Thanks for sharing it.

Carlie said...

OH that poem makes me smile. Way to turn being an outsider into a beautiful good feeling that he remembers fondly.