Sunday, January 29, 2006

IN THE CHECKOUT LINE

Today I give you a poem by Tom Gordon, Birmingham poet whose work it has been my privilege to publish in Birmingham Arts Journal. This poem is one that Tom recently shared at his mother's memorial service, and it is my honor to share it here, as it shows how one memory can illuminate an entire life. And that it should be a son's memory... it touches me.


Gratitude to Mother

If I am worth anything,
I can trace some of it to that day in the grocery store
When, after my usual mixed success in adding
Extra Oreos or Ice Cream
To your cart, I stood in the checkout line
And watched you tell the cashier, ‘You’re very pretty.’
In reply, the lady not only said thank you,
She said it with surprise in her voice
And a brightening in her face.

I think there was power in your generous gesture.
I would like to think that cashier
Later took a look in her rear view mirror
And smiled that someone had noticed
What she dared not say publicly about herself.
And perhaps, when she got home, your kindness
Was part of the day’s memory she shared with her husband,
Prompting him to put his arms around her in agreement
While inwardly vowing to atone for the times
He had neglected to tell her himself.
And maybe her memory of your three words had the kind of shelf life
That led her to say complimentary things to strangers
Or reaffirm love to those who needed it.

For all the times we mouth the golden rule,
We fail nearly as often to carry it out.
Still, your lesson to me from that long-ago Saturday
Is that every checkout line, every human encounter,
Is a chance at redemption.

- Tom Gordon

3 Comments:

Blogger Rae Pater said...

It's a very good poem Julia.
I'd be honoured if my kids remembered a story like that about me when I'm gone.

I love the cover of your journal. That picture is precious!

5:14 AM, January 30, 2006  
Blogger J.B. Rowell said...

This poem/post is by Irene - and I agree it is very good. Makes me wonder about what my kids will say about me . . . BAJ is excellent and you can download the last issue by following the link, I think . . .
Julia

7:05 PM, January 30, 2006  
Blogger reniebob said...

Who was it that said "genius is as common as dirt"? What I've learned from being poetry editor for BAJ is that there are many many good writers out there with great stories to tell. It's inspiring.
Thanks for the comments on the journal!

9:26 PM, January 30, 2006  

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