30-Day Poetry: 20

Day 20—Write a narrative poem detailing a specific childhood memory.


When I was in second grade—I think
it was second grade, though my memory
from that time is fuzzy—I was given
an assignment by my teacher, Mrs. Brown.
(She’d have been Mrs. Lyons in first grade and
Mrs. Pierce in third, but that’s neither here nor there.)
The assignment was to read a Zoobooks
magazine of my choice and write a page-long book
report on what I had learned. I chose the whale issue,
or it was somehow chosen for me. In any case,
I read the whale issue of Zoobooks and then
sat down at the dining room table one day after school
to write about it.

I sat there and sat there… and nothing came.
I wanted my report to be beautiful, coherent,
strong, and eloquent. I wanted it to be perfect.
And because I wanted it to be so perfect,
I couldn’t write anything at all. I sat crying
for hours at the old table, where my mother had
surely done her homework when she had been in
second grade. I had so many thoughts, and but I couldn’t
accept any of them as good enough for long enough
to write any of them on the wide-ruled lined page.

Finally, my mother took the page from me,
wrote something like, “I like whales” at the top,
and handed it back. I read “I like whales”, put my pencil
to the paper, and couldn’t stop writing.
I wrote a page in minutes, and I kept writing.
It was then, my mother knew, she says, that
I would be a writer.

Prompts here

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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