Friday, June 22, 2012


Hello, and happy Poetry Friday! Be sure to visit amazing, delightful Amy at the Poem Farm for lots of great Roundup links.

This weekend I'm heading to central Florida on a research mission for my work-in-progress.

Florida. Which, according to Elizabeth Bishop is the state with the prettiest name. See the poem below.

But first, here's few of my childhood memories from the years we lived in Florida:

walking to school
Ft. Meade, FL was the only place I ever lived where I was close enough to the school to walk there. My sister and I took the same route every day. Some days on the way home, we would knock on a stranger's door and ask to use the bathroom. :) I remember how sweet the people always were, how we were never frightened, not once. Some folks even fed us milk and cookies! 

playing in my grandparents' orange grove
I have such magical memories of this place -- and this weekend I'm going back! My siblings and I invented all sorts of games... we climbed and ran and cavorted. But the memory that is most vivid in my mind is stretching out on my back and looking up through the branches. I remember the sweet citrus smell combined with the earthy smell of leftover fruit rotting on the ground. It was such a delicious combination.

finding out the truth about Santa Claus
Many times in my life I've been a little too curious for my own good. This story involves a stealthy tour of our off-limits garage one late December night. If I could re-do that experience, I totally would.

Mrs. Fattig, my third grade teacher at Padgett Elementary in Lakeland, FL, whose husband was a plumber, so she had a reading bathtub in her classroom
I remember we had to learn the fifty states, and we got to sit in the bathtub to recite them. I memorized them geographically, starting with Florida and working my way across the country.

Note to students: this is NOT the best way to learn states, apparently. Everyone else in my class learned them alphabetically and didn't miss Alaska and Hawaii the way I did. (Curse my left-handness/right-brainedness)

So that's it for now. I'm sure this trip will unlock even more memories, especially as I am traveling with my mother, who grew up there and has all sorts of stories to tell!

And now for the poem by Elizabeth Bishop:


The state with the prettiest name,
the state that floats in brackish water,
held together by mangrave roots
that bear while living oysters in clusters,
and when dead strew white swamps with skeletons,
dotted as if bombarded, with green hummocks
like ancient cannon-balls sprouting grass.
The state full of long S-shaped birds, blue and white,
and unseen hysterical birds who rush up the scale
every time in a tantrum.
Tanagers embarrassed by their flashiness,
and pelicans whose delight it is to clown;
who coast for fun on the strong tidal currents
in and out among the mangrove islands
rest of poem here


  1. What a fine poem! I've been to Florida a few times, and she's captured the essence it.

    Love hearing your memories, too. That orange grove sounds heavenly, and all those friendly people along the way home from school (how things have changed).

    The reading bathtub is a hoot. Would have loved something like that!

    1. Jama, come to Alabama! We'd love to have you -- no orange groves, but lots of PEACH. Wonderful. And yes, sadly, things have changed. I would be very upset with my children if they just stopped off and WENT INSIDE some stranger's door! But for us, it was one of those sweet little towns. At least it FELT sweet. I shudder to think... moving on! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Oh, Irene! I grew up in Orlando, and your memories and the amazing poem take my back. Thanks for sharing. Safe travels, and please give my best to the Spanish moss hanging from the trees and the bits of rose moss on the ground, and so many critters among them.

    (And I love that idea of a reading bathtub, too!)

    1. Robyn, I didn't know you had sunshiney, mangrove roots! And YES, the Spanish moss! Another memory: horseback riding and pulling Spanish moss to feed to the horses. Turns out it's not good for them... lesson learned! Will say hello for you. xo

  3. I wish I had a reading tub in the library. Love the line that mangrove roots hold the state together.

    1. I visited a school this spring that has a reading bathtub! They let me get in it and take pics. I felt like I was 8 years old again. Thanks for visiting!

  4. I love the memory of you playing in the orange grove. I've been to Florida several times but never actually walked in a grove. I think I should at least once in my life. I love the poem, but that part of the Indian princess gathering up the shells seems like Native American philosophy in that it's all part of the circle of our lives. The lines are beautiful. Have a good time on your trip!

  5. What great memories. I have a similar one of sitting on the limbs of an old plum tree with my cousin, blood red juice running down our arms, and that ripe smell rising from the rotten ones on the ground. Enjoy your trip!

  6. Oh, smiles for childhood memories and s-shaped birds! I hope that you have a trip that kindles more and more memories and whatever else you need! (Would you ever be interested in sharing your notebook on my notebooks blog?) a.

    1. Thank you, Amy! And yes, I would love to share my notebooks. I will email you when I am back in town. xo

  7. Thanks for sharing those memories with us! Smells can be so powerful, can't they? They can take you right back to a certain place and time. Have a great trip!

    1. Yes, Tabatha, the smells! Good AND bad... they do bring on the memories. Thanks so much for visiting. xo

  8. Ahh, memories! Love the learning bathtub!

  9. This poem is new to me! Thanks for sharing it.


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