It wasn’t that I could not get up
the nerve to water-ski
or that I hated
myself in a bathing suit
It was bare feet
of tanned twins
next to mine
in that Waskesiu boat
as Indian princesses
the pink of shells
beside my pasty
that made me feel
not one of the beautiful people.
© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly
Prompt – Inspiration
The inspiration for this April 2011 poem was Adele Kenny’s memoir prompt. It begins:
For this prompt, try writing a memoir poem about an experience that haunts you. This is not to suggest a bad experience but, rather, a memory that continues to inform the present.
Memoir poems are narrative because they tell stories. However, we often see memoir “poems” that “narrate” in what is essentially prose (with a couple of good images, a few similes or metaphors, and stanzaic arrangements). Most of these poems don’t succeed because they never reach beyond the poet’s impulse to “tell.” The poem has to be more than the story – it has to be about what happened because of the story.
Read the rest of the prompt and a sample poem HERE.
This April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some not-as-yet published poems from my files, along with what inspired them. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to share it in comments. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!
This poem is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Irene Latham at her blog Live Your Poem.
Jane the Raincity Librarian
April 7, 2017 at 10:12 am
Isn’t it amazing the way that a feeling can linger with you, all these years later, as fresh and real as if it happened just yesterday? I remember 13 all too well, and having been pudgy, pasty and spotty, those memories certainly aren’t my favourite….!
April 7, 2017 at 11:12 am
Thanks, Jane! Your description of yourself resonates with me! What I am so thankful for is that that cloud of negative comparisons of youth is gone and, as far as I can see, didn’t do any permanent damage. But yes, the memories can still bring up feelings of inadequacy and the longing to be more—like they did back then.
April 7, 2017 at 2:38 pm
Oh Violet, I can relate! Thank you for sharing your poem… I have one on the same subject in forthcoming book with Charles Water CAN I TOUCH YOUR HAIR? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship. xo
April 7, 2017 at 6:12 pm
Thanks Irene. Aw… you too? I would love to read your poem “Can I Touch Your Hair”!
April 8, 2017 at 5:32 am
Oh my. I remember thirteen, too. Such an awkward, stringy, wallflower I was. Aren’t we all glad to have made it past those days.
April 8, 2017 at 6:15 am
Thanks Dori, I know! I’m so glad I’m not there any more (grey hair and wrinkles notwithstanding)!
April 8, 2017 at 7:17 am
After so, so long a time, there are those small moments that I still remember, in embarrassment of what could have been, or a longing of what I could have said. I taught this age for a long time & as a teacher at least knew that the children were so tender. I would have loved to have shared this with them, Violet. Thank you for sharing with us.
April 9, 2017 at 10:33 pm
Thank you, Linda. Your words are much appreciated!
April 8, 2017 at 7:23 pm
Thirteen was an awkward time for me. I remember very little. Thank you for sharing a part of your life.
April 8, 2017 at 9:06 pm
Thanks, Jone. You’ve probably lit on the best way to handle it—forget it!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Kay McGriff (@kaymcgriff)
April 9, 2017 at 6:43 am
That is a haunting memory you share in your poem, and it succeeds in moving much beyond just telling with the emotion packed into a few images.
April 9, 2017 at 4:52 pm
Thank you, Kay! I’m so glad you think it works.
April 9, 2017 at 3:06 pm
I love this prompt that brought back your memory of being 13 and ashamed of your feet. This could easily be a verse in a novel-in-verse about an awkward teenager. And weren’t we all awkward teens?
April 9, 2017 at 4:53 pm
Thank you, Margaret! Yes, awkward teenager for sure. I have a few more I could write about that time.
April 9, 2017 at 4:24 pm
Memories are hard to erase, especially when they remind us of our awkward, teenage self. I like the way you handled this poem, Violet.
April 9, 2017 at 10:32 pm
Thank you, Carol!
Michelle Heidenrich Barnes
April 13, 2017 at 7:00 am
Such a beautiful, haunting poem, Violet… clearly one that many of us can relate to.
And this… “beside my pasty
So emotionally powerful.
April 13, 2017 at 10:07 am
Aw, thanks, Michelle!
April 13, 2017 at 4:09 pm
I was a lifeguard, so I always had the tan, but never felt at home in a swimsuit (ironically).