I’m a poem hunter. Always on the lookout for some wonderful words to bring to everyone. Something you haven’t read yet that will help you know yourself better or feel your love deeper. Or maybe it’s joy or sorrow you need to bring to the surface. Your memories of someone you loved and lost that need excavating. It’s a challenge and privilege in our endlessbusydays to bring to life that which gets choked and squeezed out by responsibility and dry obligation.
I found this poem by Julie Danho while searching for a poem about Generation X in summer and ocean and intertube. I always find something great when my eyes are open and my mind is empty and I’m looking around. I hope you love this poem as much as I do. I could see everything. The frosted scallops on the donut. It must have been a French Crueller. The tenement housing. The afghan. The “crocheted dishcloths, stacked as neatly as cash for a ransom” (the best line I’ve read in five years) reminded me of the eight days I spent in my mother’s apartment after she died. Packing, boxing, keeping. I miss her. This poem reminded me of her, and our Sundays and donuts…
FYI: Sito means Grandmother in Arabic and Gido means Grandfather.
Lounging on the Couch on My 39th Birthday in Pink Flannel Donut Pajamas
American Poet, b. 1977
Surely birds would love to peck
at the dozens of donuts adorning
my arms and legs: the glazed, the jellied,
the vanilla frosted scalloped at the edges
like the worn lace tablecloth in Sito’s
tenement apartment where my mother
father sister aunts uncles cousins
would cram in Sundays, post church,
and I’d eat the frosting off two, return
the bottoms to the box while Sito frowned
and Gido insisted I should disfigure
as many donuts as made me happy. After
he died, she pulled the walls around her
like an afghan and didn’t leave. Sundays,
when I delivered the church bulletin
to her recliner, she’d clasp my face
in both hands, grateful. It’s been decades
since I sat in a pew, but I brought my mother
to the last church hafla, where she won
these pajamas instead of what she wanted
(the platter of walnut baklawa). And maybe
I’ve lived too long to be lounging in pink
flannel donut pajamas, but I love how they
rub against my legs like a cat’s head,
love that someone spent time dreaming up
improbable donuts, like this one here
frosted blue-green, then crosshatched
with piped white stripes, topped with pink
and red sprinkles, a sugared inner tube
floating the middle. How can’t I be hungry?
In the next room, my birthday cake sits
on Sito’s old table, mine since the day
we emptied her apartment and I opened
dresser drawer after dresser drawer to find
hundreds of crocheted dishcloths, stacked
as neatly as cash for a ransom. We knew
she must have made them in her recliner
by the window on those days none of us
were there. It’s almost noon and I’m still
in pajamas, waiting for my daughter
and husband to march into the room
and play me the birthday song they wrote,
her on toy guitar, him on mandolin. I hear
them practicing and it’s so sweet my teeth
ache. Sito, was it once like this for you?
Reprinted with the author’s permission.
Listen to the Author
Julie Danho’s first full-length collection, Those Who Keep Arriving, won the 2018 Gerald Cable Book Award from Silverfish Review Press. Her chapbook, Six Portraits, received the 2013 Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Award, and her poems have appeared in journals such as Pleiades, Alaska Quarterly Review, Blackbird, and New Ohio Review as well as featured on the Writers Almanac. She has been awarded fellowships from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the MacColl Johnson Fund.
Julie has an M.F.A. from Ohio State University and works as an editor in Providence, Rhode Island. She loves art history, serial commas, and taking more books out of the library than she can possibly read. She is married to the poet David O’Connell.