Sometimes I really don’t know if I like Pinterest after all.
Because sometimes I get pictures like these.
And every so often one comes around that just shatters something inside.
The above was one of those pictures. Even without reading the caption. I just stared at it for a while and then started typing. I don’t remember how long I typed before coming up with the following poem:
An Unwanted Gift
Annie Louise Twitchell
You said I could have your bicycle
when you didn’t need it anymore.
Well, they called you to go away
and you left it chained to the tree,
the one we built a wobbly house in.
I couldn’t find the key to unlock it.
Mum said I’d have to wait until you
came home, so I waited.
I waited for so long.
All that came home was a letter that
made Mum scream,
made Dad cry.
Afterwards, they said I could cut
the chain and have the bicycle.
But I didn’t want it anymore.
I just wanted my big brother to
stop playing games and come home,
come back up the driveway and —
and you never came home.
Your bicycle is still there.
The tree has grown around it and
sometimes I wonder if those two wheels
could lift the tree, the house, and me
and carry us all away to wherever
that war took you. And maybe
I could say I miss you,
and I love you,
and why couldn’t you come home?
I just remember stopping after some time and reading over what I had written and feeling completely devastated. And the funny thing was that I almost didn’t mind.
I have spent more time crying over that poem. I started practicing reading it out loud to my cat. The first couple (dozen) times I couldn’t even read the whole thing without crying.
Finally I got a bit disgusted – I’m an easily emotional person and I was afraid I was overreacting or something. So I printed out a copy and gave it to my mom. (This time I did remember to tell her it was a sad poem.)
Apparently I wasn’t really overreacting…
I mailed it in to Webster Library’s Annual Poetry Contest and kept practicing. I wanted to be able to read it out loud if I got the chance, without completely losing it. Finally I got so I could read it through several times in a row without breaking down into tears.
Then was the tricky part. If I made my mother, who is not an easy person to make cry, cry when she read my poem, how on earth I was going to survive reading to an audience? I start crying when I see other people crying!
Well, luckily for me, my oldest brother and my sister in law were up for dinner and so I just kind of decided to read it out loud to the whole family. I managed it alright, caught almost all of the right twists I wanted to, didn’t start bawling, and I didn’t get stage fright. deep breath
And then last week I got sick and didn’t do much with any of my writing for a couple days. I finished making lunch or something like that and wobbled back into the living room to take a nap on the couch, and picked up my tablet to see if I had gotten a reply about a silly question (not the knife question, a different one) from my friend, and found the notification that
second place Adult Category
with my poem.
It was a couple more hours before I was able to take my nap because I got so excited at the news, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even lie quietly very well. I would like to formally apologize to anyone who got overwhelmed by me messaging them in a feverish excitement because I won.
I did make it down to the library with my dad to read my poem. For a while I wasn’t sure I would be well enough to go, which I was really upset about because I’d put so much blood and sweat and tears into that poem. I didn’t do as well as I expected I would, although apparently the video camera didn’t pick up my shaky hands, and I guess my reading worked alright.
And a shout out to the fabulous Connie Jean for making me the sketch at the top. I’d tried several different things for a cover image and that is my favourite.
Copyright 2016 by Annie Louise Twitchell
‘Unwanted Gift Sketch’ by Connie Jean