The Sunday Poem: Gregory Pardlo

Gregory Pardlo (Photo by Jay Franco)

Gregory Pardlo (Photo by Jay Franco)

 

 

Problema 3

 

The Fulton St. Foodtown is playing Motown and I’m surprised
at how quickly my daughter picks up the tune. And soon
the two of us, plowing rows of goods steeped in fructose
under light thick as corn oil, are singing Baby,
I need your lovin, unconscious of the lyrics’ foreboding.
My happy child riding high in the shopping cart as if she’s
cruising the polished aisles on a tractor laden with imperishable
foodstuffs. Her cornball father enthusiastically prompting
with spins and flourishes and the double-barrel fingers
of the gunslinger’s pose. But we hear it as we round the rice
and Goya aisle, that other music, the familiar exchange of anger,
the war drums of parent and child. The boy wants, what, to be
carried? to eat the snacks right from his mother’s basket?
What does it matter, he is making a scene. With no self-interest
beyond the pleasure of replacing wonder with wonder, my daughter
asks me to name the boy’s offense. I offer to buy her ice cream.
How can I admit recognizing the portrait of fear the mother’s face
performs, the inherited terror of non-conformity frosted with the fear
of being thought disrespected by, or lacking the will to discipline
one’s child? How can I account for both the cultural and the inter-
cultural? The boy’s cries rising like hosannas as the mother’s purse
falls from her shoulder. Her missed step from the ledge
of one of her stilted heels, passion loosed with each displaced
hairpin. His little jacket bunched at the collar where she has worked
the marionette. Later, when I’m placing groceries on the conveyor
belt and it is clear I’ve forgotten the ice cream, my daughter
tries her hand at this new algorithm of love, each word
punctuated by her little fist: boy, she commands, didn’t I tell you?

 

 

 

 

About Gregory Pardlo

Gregory Pardlo (Photo via poetryfoundation.org)

Gregory Pardlo (Photo via poetryfoundation.org)

Gregory Pardlo’s first book, Totem, was chosen by Brenda Hillman for the American Poetry Review / Honickman Prize in 2007. His poems have appeared in American Poetry ReviewBoston ReviewCallalooGulf CoastHarvard ReviewThe NationPloughshares, and Best American Poetry.

A finalist for the Essence Magazine Literary Award in poetry, he is recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a translation grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received other fellowships from the New York Times, The MacDowell Colony, the Lotos Club Foundation and Cave Canem. Pardlo is currently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at George Washington University.

 

 

Join the Gwarlingo Community

Gwarlingo Donation Button

Gwarlingo is member supported and relies on contributions from readers like yourself to remain ad-free. Thanks to all of the readers who have contributed to the Gwarlingo Membership Drive so far. Instead of selling out to advertisers, I’m “selling out” to my readers instead! More than 250 Gwarlingo readers have contributed so far. If you haven’t donated yet, you can check out my video and all of the member rewards, including some limited-edition artwork, here on the Gwarlingo site. Donors who give $50 or more get an interactive profile on the Gwarlingo Member page. Members are also featured regularly in the Gwarlingo email newsletter.

 

 

Further Exploration

Check out the Gwarlingo Store–a handpicked selection of books, movies, etc. of interest to writers, artists, teachers, art lovers, and other creative individuals. A portion of all your purchases made through the Gwarlingo Store portal, benefits Gwarlingo. Prefer to shop online from an independent? Visit the IndieBound Gwarlingo portal here.
 

 
By | 2016-11-11T21:54:00+00:00 10.22.11|The Sunday Poem, Words|Comments Off on The Sunday Poem: Gregory Pardlo

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.