Monday, April 21, 2008

Blog Title

If anyone would believe me, I would start this entry with "So people ask me all the time...." But nobody reads this blog, and nobody has ever asked me (and nobody probably ever will ask me) where the blog gets its name. Well, heck, I'll tell you anyway.

Sentimental Moment or Why Did the Baguette Cross the Road?
By Robert Hershon

Don't fill up on bread
I say absent-mindedly
The servings here are huge

My son, whose hair may be
receding a bit, says
Did you really just
say that to me?

What he doesn't know
is that when we're walking
together, when we get
to the curb
I sometimes start to reach
for his hand

I came across this poem a couple years back in Poetry magazine. I think it was in the annual humor issue, though I'm not sure of that. The poem struck me immediately because it instantly made me smile. Just look at the title? It goes from something serious (or at least neutral) with "Sentimental Moment" to something that is the set-up to a joke ("Why did the baguette cross the road?"). What a great juxtaposition of two different mindsets. I truly want to know where the title came from, but alas, I have no idea. And why did the author use the word "baguette" instead of just "bread" or "loaf" or something else more common? I can only assume that it's to sound more French, which, in our wonderful American version of life, automatically injects a sense of formality.

I also can't help thinking about my father when I read this poem. I'm half-a-year short of my thirtieth birthday, I'm married happily, I've held down a good job since graduating near the top of my college class, and yet my father still feels the need to delude himself into believing that I'm a teenager. "Call your grandparents," he tells me. "Save your money." These are the stalwarts. But then he tells me things like, "you should make reservations when you go to busy restaurants because they can get crowded." Thanks, Dad. Don't get me wrong; I love my dad. He's at the top of my favorite people list, behind only my wife and tied with my brother and mother (I may have a more specific ranking system, but I'm not dumb enough to put it in writing). Anyway, when I read this poem, I think that this is something that, if he were more poetical, my dad would think or say to me. I know that he tries to see me as an adult, but something tells me that he'll always want to pay for dinner, and he'll randomly give me $20 from his wallet when he thinks I need it.

The other thing about this poem is its simplicity. If I ever get around to posting my own poems, you'll see that I prefer a very simply, prose style. This poem is short but it is very clear in the picture that is being painted. There's a father who loves his son, and this is what he thinks. It doesn't need to be made more complex, more "literary," than this poem, and I appreciate that.

I'm part of a poetry appreciators group that meets on Saturday mornings during the spring, and for our first meeting of 2008 I brought this poem to share with the others. It was one of four pieces I had with me that day, and it was the one I chose to read aloud. At the end of that first session, we shared copies of all our poems, and, oddly enough, another member of the group (a bear of a man named Wilber-- whom I just love) also brought this one. When we discussed it, I again was struck by the power of poetry. I brought this poem because it made me think of my dad; Wilber brought the poem because it made him think of his kids. And we both love it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the last part of the poem.
'I sometimes start to reach for his hand.' xoxooo :)