So far, my favourite poem is by Jennifer Mathews: “What He Gave Away” on page 75/77 (depending on your version). It’s an honest narrative with a light touch, grounded in good childhood memories about her grandfather and then the reality of her grownup life and love, apparently at odds with him (‘Four years since I’ve been told not to visit”).
What’s difficult for some families to address or acknowledge tends to erase the person they loved from their minds – until, as in the poem, she shows up unexpectedly and can relate face to face with her grandparents, who actually welcome her back into their lives.
This situation is relatable and Jennifer’s grandfather is entirely believeable (and humourous) and the poem, with just the right amount of earthy detail and voice, ends on such a lovely, redeeming note (“I am back in the family”).
And it’s interesting to me too that the grandfather’s gifts of imperfect fruit, stale bread, wilting flowers suggest he’s able finally to take his granddaughter back into his heart exactly as she is, as we all are—perfect in our imperfections.
By Lynne Burnett.
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