Poetry and Potato Snacks, Shuttles and Sharing
Living and teaching in Hickory, North Carolina for the Spring 2018 semester, I have commuted home to Alabama every two or three weeks, mostly by car but a couple of times by plane as well, flying out of Charlotte. Both times I’ve used the airport shuttle, and on the last trip I chatted with my driver about how I came to be in Hickory. I told her about teaching a poetry workshop, which led to our talking about a reading at the college the night before with Seamus Heaney’s widow, Marie, and daughter Catherine, which a friend of hers had attended. She told me that her mother had written poetry, and we talked about her poems.
Also in the shuttle was a middle-aged Japanese businessman, friendly but quiet, polite, on his way home. He and I spoke briefly about the cherry blossoms blooming both in Hickory and in Japan, and I told him that a friend had recently shared a poem with me about how much he loved Kyoto. Mostly he just listened to our conversation.
After about an hour, we arrived in Charlotte, and he was dropped off first. He got out, the van’s sliding door closed with a thunk, and he and the driver went around to the back to retrieve his luggage. And then the door opened again, and he was standing there with a box of potato snacks with Japanese characters on it, handing the tan-and-red box into the van to me. I thanked him, and he smiled. “I am very happy,” he said. I could only conclude that it was poetry that had made him so. Something about the conversation amongst the three of us had refreshed a jet-lagged businessman, reminding him of the way poetry connects people from all over the world.
The box had smiling potato stick-figures, and was, he said, “last one!”—he had apparently brought several to give away as small gifts.
The driver and I finished the trip, and she promised to send me her mother’s favorite poem, one she always shared with friends. She told me of her mother and this poem that “Her only wish was to get it publicized as widely as possible in order to raise awareness of forgotten people. Up until her death at age 93, she continued to recite it from memory whenever/wherever she got the chance.”
She gave me permission to reproduce it, as long as her mother was credited as the author, so in the spirit of sharing poetry, not knowing what it may bring, I’m doing that here:
SHE LIVES ALONE
an original poem by DORA PRINCE ROGERS
Do you know someone who lives alone?
Do you take the time to call her on the phone?
Or do you say “If I call, she may be sleeping.”
When at the time, she may be weeping.
Since her health and her eyesight have failed
She can’t drive her car—can’t even read her mail.
You think, “She’s OK; her groceries are delivered to her door,
And I told her to call if she needed anything more.”
She COULD call 911 if she was injured or dizzy.
But she COULDN’T call a friend—they might be busy.
Maybe you could take her for a ride in your car.
She wouldn’t want to go very far.
“Just up the street to see that brand-new store.”
(The one that’s been there a year or more.)
Perhaps you’d be surprised at the happiness you shared
By just letting someone know you cared.