Today's poem came to me courtesy of The Library of America's "Story of the Week," which highlighted this holiday-appropriate verse by Gregory Djanikian. Until I clicked over to the LoA's site, I wasn't familiar with Djanikian, but I found his poem "Immigrant Picnic" was plain-spoken (i.e. "accessible"), funny, and full of rich imagery. It felt like the perfect literary condiment as I prepare the grill for our own family picnic in the backyard. We're having beer-can chicken with chipotle-cherry barbecue sauce, root-beer baked beans, and grilled corn. As we eat, we'll be listening to the crackle-snap soundtrack of firecrackers popping off in neighborhoods all around Butte....but I probably won't be wearing a hat in the shape of Montana.
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.