My Father’s Bookstore, Sticks and Stones, A Very Thin Poem About the Very Little Space Grandma Gives Me to Write

By Elizabeth Claire Alberts

My Father’s Bookstore

Image courtesy of Garry Knight (flickr.com)

Image courtesy of Garry Knight (flickr.com)

Every morning he
rushes to shave the brown stubble
from his face
pulls on a clean white collared shirt
gulps down his steaming black coffee
bounds the four blocks to the metro
dashes towards the bookstore’s dingy brown building
whisks up the security shutters
sweeps the leaves and dust
and cigarette butts from the front walk
re-hangs the SALE! EVERYTHING
25-75% OFF banner
props open the door
turns the sign that says
Come in – we’re OPEN!

Then he waits
and waits
and waits
for customers
who never hurry in

Sticks and Stones: a Cinquain Sequence

One time
a boy called me
a book-loving freak while
his parents wandered around the
bookshop

and I
stepped hard on his
toes which made him cry but
I wasn’t sorry, not one bit.
And then

one time
Mom made me go
to girl scout day camp, and
all the girls whispered that I was
weird and

homeschooled
and no one asked
me to go on hikes or
play truth or dare all week which is
why I

spat on
everyone’s plates
of spaghetti when I
got assigned to kitchen duty.
So when

Launa,
a knee-high boot
wearing, blonde haired, blue-eyed
girl one year older than me, who
Mom got

to work
at our bookshop
when Dad got the flu, and
who I really liked right away,
asked me,

Have you
ever been told
that you’re weird for writing
poetry? My face burned hot, and
I flashed

Launa
my meanest glare.
But then she said, Whoa, girl!
I just asked ‘cause I also write
stories

and poems
and I’m even
writing a novel, and
people have told me I’m weird my
whole life.

A Very Thin Poem About the Very Little Space
Grandma Gives Me to Write

Image courtesy os samuriijohnny (flickr.com)

Image courtesy os samuriijohnny (flickr.com)

My grandma
doesn’t like
that I write.
Every time she
sniffs the ink
of my pen
she hands me a
dish towel or
tells me to find
the TV remote
or asks me to get
her sweater or
her iphone or
her blood pressure
pills from her
suitcase, and I
can’t write in my
room, because
she’s there, and
Mom won’t let
me go out to
to a coffee shop
because we have
company and
even when I
try to write in the
cramped child-
sized crawl space
between the couch
and the wall,
Grandma finds me,
and even when I
slither between
shoes and shirt-
sleeves in my
parents’ closet,
Grandma finds me,
and even when
it’s time for bed,
and Mom and
Dad have gone
to bed, and Grandma
Hooligan should
be going to bed,
and I think I’ll
have some space
to write and
b r e a t h e
on my little
cloister of couch,
Grandma
squeezes onto
the couch beside
me, and says we
could use some
Grandma-
granddaughter
time, (whatever
that means)
and she flicks
on some awful
raucous late-
night comedy
show, and she
pokes my side
every time they
tell a joke, and
the cacophony
of commercials
boxes my ears,
and Grandma’s
rose-rich
perfume clogs
my nose, and
when she finally
does go to bed,
and the living
room’s quiet
and the apart-
ment’s quiet,
and the couch
is all mine, and
I pull out my
notebook to write,
Grandma
is still on my
mind, and
when I write
a word it’s
Grandma,
and when I
scribble a poem,
it’s Grandma,
Grandma,
Grandma,
until I’m Grand-
ma gasping.
Grandma
go away!


ECAlberts_Photo2013Elizabeth Claire Alberts is currently working on her PhD in creative writing at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, where she also teaches creative writing. Her work has previously appeared in publications like Island Magazine, Axon Journal, Text, and the Australian Poetry website. She is the co-author of “Joselina Piggy Cleans Her Room,” and has recently had a story published in “Stories of the Great Turning.” In 2012, she got to spend three wonderful months at Blutenburg Castle in Munich (the home of the International Youth Library) to work on her thesis on young adult verse-novels. Find out more about her at www.elizabethclairealberts.com.

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One Comments Post a Comment
  1. Janet Woodbury says:

    Elizabeth Claire, your poetry is WONDERFUL! I must confess … I am “poetically challenged”! When a student asks me to help him or her interpret a Shakespeare sonnet or a Shelley verse, I struggle. It just doesn’t speak to me, though I know it should. But your poetry speaks! I have struggled at times to find my own private space, I have certainly been a book nerd all my life, and I am sitting in a tiny Charleston cafe where my husband and I are the only customers. I am sure that the young man who is trying to make a go of this goes through just what you describe in the first poem. He waits, and waits, and waits. Your poetry excites me! Keep writing:-)!

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