Friday, April 18, 2008

BillyBlog's Favorite Poems, #13 ("Boss of the Food" by Lois-Ann Yamanaka)

Before time, there was one show on PBS called "United States of Poetry". It wen air in the Nineties, eh? And was watching 'em, an' like get all da poems and da buggahs dat write 'em, eh? An' was watching, and dis wahine come one an' read this poem, an its in pidgin! "Whoa," I think, "now dat's da kine poetry!"

Pardon me if my pidgin is a bit rusty. It's also a lot harder fo write than talk. Anyway, "Boss of the Food" is a great poem in my book, great story too. The series premiered just as the poet, Lois-Ann Yamanaka, had released her third novel Blu's Hanging. She was appearing at the L.A. Times Book Festival shortly thereafter. I showed up at the event, was instantly drawn in by Yamanaka's persona, her charm, and her warmth. At the signing after a panel discussion, I introduced myself and presented her with a bag of Raisinets.

She was so genuinely thrilled with the gesture, I got one big-time hug of Aloha, and a literary friendship began. Now, by that I am not saying Lois and I are buddies, but we have exchanged notes/letters/cards. She gets a holiday card from me (she's met my daughter, Jolee, once, and my mother several times). Whenever she comes to New York, I make it a point to go hear her read, and I'm always warmly remembered and appreciated.

Lois once heaped praise on a poem that I had sent her, and that praise still sustains me over a decade later. So that's the back story and why this poem is special to me.

Caution to the keiki, careful, eh? Get da "f" word in 'em. So if you stay shy li' dat, no read, eh?

Before time, everytime my sista like be the boss
of the food. We stay shopping in Mizuno Superette
and my madda pull the Oreos off the shelf
and my sista already saying, Mommy,
can be the boss of the Oreos?

The worse was when she was the boss
of the sunflower seeds.
She give me and my other sistas
one seed at a time.
We no could eat the meat.
Us had to put um in one pile on one Kleenex.
Then, when we wen' take all the meat
out of the shells and our lips stay all cho cho,
she give us the seeds one at a time
cause my sista, she the boss
of the sunflower seeds.

One time she was the boss
of the Raisinettes.
Us was riding in the back
of my granpa's Bronco down Kaunakakai Wharf.
There she was, passing us one Raisinette at a time. My mouth was all watery
'cause I like eat um all one time, eh?
So I wen' tell her, Gimme that bag.
And I wen' grab um.
She said, I'ng tell Mommy.
And I said, Go you fuckin' bird killa;
tell Mommy.

She wen' let go the bag.
And I wen' start eating the Raisinetes all one time.
But when I wen' look at her,
I felt kinda bad cause I wen' call her bird killa.
She was boss of the parakeet too, eh,
and she suppose to cover the cage every night.
But one time, she wen' forget.
When us wen' wake up, the bugga was on its back,
legs in the air all stiff.
The bugga was cold.
And I guess the thing that made me feel bad
was I neva think calling her bird killa
would make her feel so bad
that she let go the bag Raisinettes.

But I neva give her back the bag.
I figga what the fuck.
I ain't going suffer eating one Raisinette at a time.
Then beg her for one mo
and I mean one mo
fuckin' candy.

Hear Lois read this here: "Boss of the Food" (m4a)

Previous Favorite Poems for National Poetry Month:

#15 - "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop
#16 - "Buddhist Barbie" by Denise Duhamel
#17 - "One Train May Hide Another" by Kenneth Koch
#18 - "Poem (Lana Turner Has Collapsed!) by Frank O'Hara (with Audio)
#19 - "Crumbs" by Hal Sirowitz (Audio Added)
#20 - "This Is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams
#21 - "They Feed They Lion" by Philip Levine
#22 - "Looking at Kilauea" by Garret Hongo
#23 - "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell (Audio Added)
#24 - A Handful of Richard Brautigan
#25 - "A Buddha in the Woodpile" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
#26 - "Separation" by W.S. Merwin
#27 - "The Flea" by John Donne
#28 - Poem Twenty from Pablo Neruda's Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
#29 - "Magpie's Song" by Gary Snyder
#30 - "Eunoia" by Christian Bok

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