Bompa

Bompa is a She Knows Media 2017 Voices of the Year Honoree in the Short Written Work category. The poem has been published in the Oakland Arts Review and Encounters.


His favorite word was Jackass

his name, Bompa (boom-pahh)

was from the Flemish word for Grandpa

 

\ˈjak-ˌas\

he spit this out of his throat while driving

flung it at bankers and mothers and teenagers and teachers

when they clogged the avenues in their cars

if the sun was out and his window was down

he broiled his fist into the air

he unclenched his fist to cook eggs with eight cheeses on Sunday

to play backgammon and sip smoked whiskey

to tell his story about the monk in the mountains

to thumb through books

to write a poem about a cat

he uncrumpled dollar bills on a counter to buy my eleventh birthday present

a Merriam-Webster Dictionary

big and red

a monument, it now lays on my desk

tucked inside was a letter

Treasure,

he called the dictionary

Jewels,

he called words

Beloved,

he called me

he wrote his name phonetically, with two o’s in the middle

Bompa_Letter

The dictionary sat next to me

when I ate Bompa’s pasta with salt and butter

from a bowl filled with pale little dinosaurs

a stegosaurus, a triceratops, some sauropods, I swallowed them whole

grease stains decorate the pages

where the paper absorbed my fingertips

I looked at words until they filled me up

until the sun disappeared

and Bompa called me from his book-lined study

Bompa’s voice vibrated, as if from a whale’s belly

                                                               Danielle, there are no Rice Krispies in the house

he boomed

Bompa_Photo

his paper skin reflected off my grandmother’s dark dark complexion

his head was a mound of sleek red waves

hers a thick black halo

oil and water, Black and white,

they were not expected to merge

but they did

together, they raised four children

and proudly walked the streets

an unfamiliar swirl of colors, rarely seen side by side

this hurt the eyes of bystanders

to soften the glare, it was only him they looked at

not the woman, two boys, one girl, and dark haired baby clustered next to him

it was only him they addressed

                                                           Can’t you see these are my children

                                                           No we will not sit in the back, this table suits us just fine

                                                           This is my wife

he boomed

waving away insinuations and would-be insults

Bompa_Family Photo

when Bompa died, his hands were blue

and his back was warm.


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13 thoughts on “Bompa

  1. Mia says:

    Such a moving portraying of your grandfather. Very touching. And what a lovely way to give you that gift , the gift of words. He was so right about that.

    Like

  2. imrunningmymouth says:

    This is one of my favorite poems of yours. I actually just read it in Encounters yesterday, haha! I really like the changes and again, I think the images make a world of a difference. Seeing his letter to you from the gift against your interpretation of it was one of the main additions I really loved (“Beloved Child/Woman,” is the greatest). And also, the family pic with so many people but he is looking at you is so sweet.

    The eggs, the backgammon, poetry and pasta with butter and salt, it is all so familiar to me, I felt like I was back at my grandparent’s apartment. These small details are so important and you make sure the reader can kind of see him as a person before delving into two of the more major themes or qualities about him, the first being the importance of words / communication. The other being his telling anyone uncomfortable with his biracial relationship/family to fuck off. I especially like the contrast of people looking at him to “soften the glare” but he didn’t stand for it and “boomed” in his reply, not letting anyone insult his family.

    He seems like a great person to have known, and yeah, I just really love this poem.

    Like

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