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The Sincerest Form of Flattery

For the next few days, I'm going to look at a poem by a Toledo-area poet and present a prompt based on their work.

For our first in the series:

The poet finds connections between seemingly unrelated things, weaving meaning through simple moments. Let’s look at how Toledo poet Sandra Rivers-Gill turns a piece of fruit into a moment of reflection.

— for George Floyd

I had forgotten its coolness I carry 

from ice box to counter slab. 

A pear’s taste is a hot commodity,

crisp and sweet.

Its body bares a certified label —

the inspector’s choice.

Its unbroken skin sits silent

on my countertop.

The greenish-gold of its silhouette

does not wobble or

collapse like a cracked egg. 

Funny how present tense

can worm its way into a memory.

When I was a young girl,

the white woman next door grew pear trees —

littered the ground with their fruit.

I had forgotten.

By summer’s end she donned a straw hat,

climbed the ladder to her constellation of crops,

shared them with my brother and me.

The pears sat in our kitchen windowsill.

Our noses pressed against the scent

till they were ripe enough.

Now I stand at my kitchen counter

paring the skin from its flesh.

Its fresh tears stream in my hands.

I had forgotten pears ripen

at room temperature,

in their cultural climate.

I remember the instructions

that guarantee a pear’s ripeness:

simply press its neck.

Sandra notes how the poem came about: “My poem was originally written in 2021 while taking a graduate creative writing course at UT after the murder of George Floyd, the year prior.  The poem was informed by my curiosity to know when a pear was ripe enough to eat, and finding the irony of how a piece of fruit and a black body could share parallel truths. I was stunned to learn about the pear’s culture through inquiry. “D’Anjou” honors both my memory and Floyd’s.”

PROMPT:  Think of a simple daily act. Perhaps washing dishes, folding laundry, driving to work, drinking coffee. Make a list. They aren’t moments we normally think of as emotionally charged. These are things we do without thinking. Now think of a piece of news that upsets you. There is, unfortunately, always plenty to pick from. Pair the mundane with the scary. Describe thinking about that article or something that makes you jump from the mundane to the contents of the news story. Perhaps its something about the senses (a sound, a smell, touch) or a memory that emerges. Play with different ways of weaving the simple with the complex.

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