Poetry Friday: July 4th., parades, people, and flags

Poetry Friday is hosted by Keri @ Keri Recommends
The Fourth of July  parade in my hometown is a big deal – lots of floats, bands, antique cars, fire trucks, and the old fife and drum corps:


My husband marched in the parade as part of a high school parent organization float, while I sat back and took pictures and tried to stay cool, then gave up and went home to read.  When he eventually returned home, he spoke of what it was like to be in the parade – and about the variety of people from many parts of the world that  he saw lining the streets, waving flags and cheering on the parade.  That made be think about where I had been sitting during the parade – there was a young family who had just moved into town from Portugal on one side of me, and, across the street, three teenagers in hijabs.  We are, still, a melting pot – and how wonderful that was to think about on the Fourth of July.  
Today’s poem was written by Gregory Djanikian, who mines his own story of emigration and acculturation (of Armenian heritage, he was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and emigrated to the United States as a child) in his poetry:

Immigrant Picnic


It’s the Fourth of July, the flags
are painting the town,
the plastic forks and knives
are laid out like a parade.

And I’m grilling, I’ve got my apron,
I’ve got potato salad, macaroni, relish,
I’ve got a hat shaped   
like the state of Pennsylvania.

I ask my father what’s his pleasure
and he says, “Hot dog, medium rare,”
and then, “Hamburger, sure,   
what’s the big difference,”   
as if he’s really asking.

I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,   
slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas,
uncap the condiments. The paper napkins   
are fluttering away like lost messages.
( you can read the rest of the poem here.)
(Thank you, Google Images)

10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: July 4th., parades, people, and flags

  1. Oh, beautiful, Tara. I love those plastic forks and knives, "laid out like a parade." Fun to hear about your husband being in the parade. I happened upon one I didn't know about looking for a bookstore in a nearby neighborhood. No fife and drum here however, but a high school drum corps! You've reminded me I used to help a friend from Norway navigate those 'barrels'!

  2. Hi Tara! I love parades and remember vividly being in one as a child . . . because I was walking behind horses. Yep. Glad your hubby was on a float! Thanks for sharing your holiday fun, and this thought-provoking poem.

  3. Djanikian paints such a vivid picture of the barbeque in the beginning of the poem. But this poem is about so much more than a cook-out. Thanks for sharing it today. And Happy Fourth (a day late), Tara!

  4. Tara, I love the word play in Djanikian's poem. All those loose heads, rolling barrels, and nuts made me laugh out loud! Thanks for sharing this reminder of the richness of experience brought to this country by immigrants from all over the world.

  5. *Laughing*Reading that poem is like what it's like to teach in my classroom sometimes. Everyone's trying hard to understand and/or explain and making connections like crazy, but the whole thing is as messed up as…well, as this poem gets! But it tastes as good as the pistachios and/or pecans at the end!

  6. Tara,Read your poem last night, immediately thought of one of my graduate students, who had just written a whole unit on figurative language. So then I had to share your poem with her right away, and then, of course, I got distracted by teenage comings and goings and forgot to come back. Like Mary Lee, I thought of the kids I knew…This is so perfect! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. I absolutely love it. My mom is the daughter of an immigrant and I swear she still uses the tangled phrases he taught her. Thanks for the reminder that some of us are new here.

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