Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Immigrant Picnic" by Gregory Djanikian

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.

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.

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