SOLSC: Fifty Years Ago

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The newspaper I saved that day.

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for providing a place to share our slices every week.

Ten

When I was ten, we moved from Monrovia, California to Simi Valley, California.
My grandmother called it a ‘God forsaken place.”

When I was ten, I lived in the Santa Susanna Hills, waiting for our house to be built.
The closet was cedar and I could stand in it. My mother didn’t like the toothless, tattooed woman living next door so we moved,

When I was ten, I wore shorts under my dresses so I could twirl on the monkey bars,
Until I got caught. “Young ladies don’t do that,” my grandmother said.

When I was ten, thousands of miles away, four girls were murdered because of the color of their skin. Was I shielded from the news? Protected? It wasn’t discussed at my house.

When I was ten, I lived in an apartment, waiting for our house to be built. I shared a bedroom with my brother. We went to Abraham Lincoln School.

When I was ten, the boy who sat in front of me always bothered me. One day, he turned around and pulled the buttons off my sweater.

When I was ten, I would climb trees and spend the day reading.

When I was ten, the loud speaker came on at school. The principal in a somber voice announced, ” President Kennedy has been shot.” We were all sent home. I arrived home and my mother was crying.

When I was ten, we stayed home for a national day of mourning. I played Barbies most of the day. I kept the newspaper for my scrapbook.

When I was ten, the world shifted.

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I am not sure I like how this ends. It feels abrupt. But I have been thinking about a piece of writing like this since I read Carole Boston Weatherford’s book, Birmingham 1963. I am toying with playing around with it in the pantuom form.

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11 Responses to SOLSC: Fifty Years Ago

  1. elle1955 says:

    Wonderful choice of just the right details within this beautifully structured poem.

  2. Leigh Anne says:

    I immediately thought of Cynthia Rylant’s When I Was Young in the Mountains! The repetition moves the story along and I love the ending!

  3. Dana Murphy says:

    Wow, I absolutely love this. I love the repeating line, the different images and slices of your life back then. And I think the ending is fantastic. Powerful.

  4. When I was ten. What a powerful story. The repetition is so strong, Loved the image of the toothless lady. And the undercurrent of your parents trying to protect you, protect you from the toothless woman, and protect you from the unladylike behavior on the monkey bars. But they couldn’t control the boy who pulled off your buttons or the death of your President.
    I was 5 and in first grade in Canada. We didn’t get sent home, but I remember being told. It was like the air went out of the room.
    Oh, and try the ending with just. “When I was ten.” What would your title be?

    • macrush53 says:

      Thanks Pamela for the feedback and the suggestion. I am going to play with the poem some more. There’s a pantuom in there I think.

  5. Tara Smith says:

    I love the varying moods – innocence and impending doom, safety and terror. Such a powerful slice!

  6. Linda Baie says:

    I like the style, the repetition, Jone. The ending-it is abrupt, but isn’t that the way it was? One day we were moving along in our own spaces not worrying too much all the time. I went through a tough time with the Cuban crisis because a best friend’s fiancé was there, but in all, still seemed far away. And then, everything changed, as you said, shifted! It was such an awful time for the country. I was in college, heard screaming as I walked across campus. Thanks for the memory, although sad.

    • macrush53 says:

      You made me thing of some other things about being age ten, Linda. Definitely going to revise this poem.

  7. Amy Rudd says:

    My husband loves history and we were just watching yet another documentary on the way the news ran the story of JFK and the assassination. I just can’t imagine how horrifying the news sounded when people began to learn of his death…as well as the girls who were killed in Birmingham.

    I like the images you’ve created as you shared this lens on your life as a ten year old.

  8. Wow! I love this poem. The repetition draws me in immediately and I love the visual images you give the reader. My favorite parts are the parts about you as a ten year old:

    “When I was ten, I wore shorts under my dresses so I could twirl on the monkey bars,
    Until I got caught. ‘Young ladies don’t do that,’ my grandmother said…

    When I was ten, the boy who sat in front of me always bothered me. One day, he turned around and pulled the buttons off my sweater.

    When I was ten, I would climb trees and spend the day reading.”

    Thank you so much for sharing! You’ve inspired me! When I was ten…

  9. I love repetition. Reminds me of Cynthia Rylant in tone and structure. Reminds me of The Watson’s Go to Birmingham reflecting the feeling of the time. Beautiful images and ideas. Thank you.

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