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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, August 12, 2016.
About this Poem 

“My mother moved to Ames, Iowa last year. It’s the first time we’ve lived in the same town since I was 17. We spend a lot of afternoons together, driving around. When she told me this story, I asked her, ‘Do you mind if I write about this?’ ‘Not at all!’ she said, in her characteristically upbeat way. She also said that, according to her internet research, many seniors experience this phenomenon.”
—Jennifer L. Knox

Name That Tune

Lately my 84-year-old mother’s been
hearing noises: a party in the street below
her bedroom window—gruff men cursing,
a woman’s shrieking laughter, beer cans going
“dink” off the concrete. Finally she got the nerve
to peek out: nothing but a street light. Sounds
coming from inside her, she says: pops, clicks,
swooshes, gongs, alarms, heavy steps pounding
through her as if someone’s stumbling around
on the roof. Her cellphone rings. “Hello?” No
answer from its flat, gray face. A fist pounding
on the door she never used to lock—so hard she
feared the wood would split—but the peephole:
empty. A voice in the middle of the night: “Joann!”—
impatient to get her attention, clear as day, she said.
“That must be terrifying,” I said. She giggled,
“I don’t know but it was really something!
You know that poem ‘I Sing the Body Electric’?”
“Of course. Did you recognize the voice?” I asked.
“It must’ve been my mother because she called me
‘Joann!’” she imitated her mother’s scolding voice
“in just that way.” “A woman?” I asked. “Yes,
and a stranger might call me, ‘Jody.’” “Yes,”
I agreed, so at least it’s someone who knows her.

Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer L. Knox. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 12, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2016 by Jennifer L. Knox. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 12, 2016, by the Academy of American Poets.

Jennifer L. Knox

Jennifer L. Knox

Jennifer L. Knox is the author of Days of Shame and Failure (Bloof Books, 2015), The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway (Bloof Books, 2010), Drunk by Noon (Bloof Books, 2007), and A Gringo Like Me (Bloof Books, 2007). She lives in Iowa, where she teaches at Iowa State University.

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When my father was nine years old, his mother said, "Tommy, I'm taking you to the circus for your birthday. Just you and me, and I'll buy you anything you want." The middle child of six, my father thought this was the most incredible, wonderful thing that had ever happened to him—like something out of a fairy tale

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Who could blame me?" I tell the what’s
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Dad couldn’t stop crying after Kathy moved him into the facility. 
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