Poetry Friday: My Grandmother Making Breakfast

Last week, I shared some gleanings from poet and teacher Gregory Orr’s book A Primer for Poets and Readers of Poetry, specifically his thoughts about the distinction between lyric and narrative poetry. Orr acknowledges that these two poetic forms occur along a continuum, with very few poems being purely one or the other. He also observes that while “most poetry readers and writers have shifted toward lyric,

The narrative impulse is still powerfully present in all of us as a fundamental way of organizing experience into meaning.”

Orr includes an exercise at the end of this chapter, challenging his readers to write a narrative poem. He suggests writers “choose a figure who is known to you…then imagine that figure in a context.” Once you have these basic elements, “add yourself to the situation” and keep asking “what happens next?”

This poem is my response to the exercise. As with any prompt, I bent the rules a little, but kept true to Orr’s direction to “narrow the focus.”

My Grandmother Making Breakfast

She stands at the stove
in the center of her kitchen,
cracking eggs
into a cast iron frying pan.

I sit at her drop-front desk
in the corner by the window,
perched on a yellow stool,
trying to shuffle cards
in a collapsing arch,
the way my father does.

She stirs the eggs,
their sunflower yolks blooming
into the black pan.

My attention is on the cards,
my ten-year old hands
not quite dexterous enough
to manage the trick
of mingling and
mixing them.

Meanwhile, my grandmother
adds salt and pepper to the eggs,
now coalescing into fluffy mounds
and the warmth of the stove radiates
throughout the kitchen.

Soon, she will spoon our breakfast
onto flowered plates.
The cards will be scattered
on the desk, forgotten for now.

We will sit and eat.
She will sip her coffee;
I will sip Hi-C  from a glass
that once held shrimp cocktail.

But for now,
we are both focused
on the task at hand,
lost in our thoughts,
content to be alone

© Catherine Flynn, 2019

Please be sure to visit Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Just a reminder about the Roundup on International Women’s Day (March 8th). I’m hosting that day thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the day by sharing poems that honor women. These could be original poems or poems written by others. They could be poems about an important woman in your life who deserves to be celebrated, someone famous, an unsung woman of historical significance, or a poem by your favorite female poet. The choice is yours. So please feel free to participate (or not) in any way that feels right to you. 

10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: My Grandmother Making Breakfast

  1. Just ‘alone together’ is the way it was. I do love that you mixed in the details of the card practice as your grandmother mixed the eggs. The two together is wonderful, Catherine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m with Margaret….I see a collection growing. And, it is marvelous. I smiled in two spots especially. The sunflower yolks and the Hi-C from the glass that once held shrimp cocktail. I felt like I visited my own grandmother. This poem is so special. You make me want to write one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow – THIS poem would be perfect for your March 8 celebration, I think! So well done, Catherine – and I kept seeing the hand motions of cracking eggs and shuffling cards that way as mirroring each other. Brilliant and beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. She stirs the eggs,
    their sunflower yolks blooming
    into the black pan.

    I love that there is no scrambling here, even in the mixing and mingling of the cards. There is just measured effort, practiced and unpracticed, hands stirring. Your father’s “collapsing arch” bringing you and your grandmother into the same plane of being, doing.

    Tonight we are going to talk about one weird difference between what you are posting here and what you are writing for kids…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Catherine, this is such a lovely poem! Many of my “Wows” have been noted above–the mirrored hand motions of egg making and card shuffling, those blooming egg yolks, and the overall sense of contentment being alone, together. You make me homesick for my youth and time with my grandmother–though that time had sharper edges. Hmmmm…maybe there’s a poem there!
    PS–I’ve added Gregory Orr’s book to my list. I think this will be the third book I’ve bought at your recommendation and so far each one’s been an incredible resource!


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