“Still Recognizable by the Girl Scout Gap in my Two Front Teeth” – Nikki Finney

Nikki Finney is a poet.  She lives in Kentucky.  She has youtube video interviews about how when the Native American company that made her pencils went out of business, she bought out all of their pencils and has cardboard boxes filled with the orange-yellow sticks.  Now, when I buy out Target’s “Green Room” journal section, I don’t feel like such a freak, even though the cashier still looks at me like a journal hog).

She writes (in my opinion) a lot about abandonment, but not like parental neglect,  more about abandonment from OUR Nation.  Her book, Head Off & Split deals a lot with the after-effects of New Orleans and the time it took the people of America to respond.  Yes, we can sit in front of our televisions, clutching at our hearts and leaving our eyes wide for the standard amount of time after seeing a disaster or a car wreck, but what did we really do?  How many of us donated five percent of our paycheck, plus our dues to Sunday Church (we are in North Carolina after all)?  How many of us got into our cars, in silence, rustling to God all our more trivial worries and drove down to New Orleans to feel the weight fallen limbs and beams on our backs?  Not many I don’t think.  (I’m no better…)  And this is what Finney deals with, the way New Orleans was left to its’ own saving and the political climate afterwards.  (That’s only part 1).

And I’m only so far into Head Off & Split but there’s this poem that uses the quote in the title of this blog, “Still Recognizable by the Girl Scout Gap in my Two Front Teeth” and it is going to be the first poem of 30 Days of Public Poetry.  

The entire reason I chose this poem dates back to 7th grade science class (insert foggy side dimensions now) where I was a sprouting pre-pubescent girl who just got her first awkward hair cut where her mother told her “we’ll just buy some clips at Target to make it all better.”  Exactly what you want to hear about your hack-job.  I had not yet been to a school dance (those don’t start until 8th grade) and I had just been told I wouldn’t get braces because they cost too much, and my smile was near perfect anyhow (quote from the faj).  All of my bad-yearbook-photos and awkward half-80s, half-Abercrombie outfits led to my eventual dorkdom.  AKA 7th Grade Science Class.

The kid who sat next to me is popular.  He on the one hand wanted to finger me and on the other wanted to pick on my bucked, and spaces-of-possibility teeth.  I have reason to believe his education suffered from the amount of girls he did eventually get his hands into, so it all worked out in the end, eh?

But this is all beside the point.   For the suffering of my seventh grade self AND the suffering of everyone in New Orleans who lost even an old family photo in the devastation of floods and Hurricane Katrina I have come up with my first day of 30 days of Public Poetry.

I work at a literary magazine, surprise surprise, since I’m always blaring poetry in your face.   Across the street is this wonderful old house, “2011 Fairview Road” and it’s magic.  (Not like Harry Potter, like fairy dust).  Every time I leave the loft there are always animals huddled around it like a Disney Princess is stuck inside the chimney tower and is humming to herself about all the flowers and bumble bees.

I mean, there are bunnies, and pigeons, and robins and hardly of them move when I skip down the driveway towards my car.  (Yes, I skip, it’s good exercise and it makes me feel like I’m carrying baskets of berries).    Sometimes, I hear them rustling in the bushes when they do run away (I’m thinkin’ that’s just the spazness of squirrels though).

There’s something strange going on inside this house.

However, inside my little cottage, there’s nothing.  Everything has been moved out and only the dust particles from the window shadows have set up homes in the corners of the wood flooring.  And to top it all off, it’s being demolished.  This is when you write your concern letter to the City of Raleigh about how we already have enough condo’s and the Princess House needs a second chance at life.

So, let me get to where this all comes together.  Finney is all about abandonment, and longing, and the stubbornness of living what you know and trusting the place where you’ve measured each grandchild against the kitchen wallpaper and drawn centimeter pencil lines where their heads reach.

“My Time Up with You” (Head Off & Split) and the poem I’ve chosen from her book ties in my seventh grade awkwardness (with the quote above) and Finney’s sense of abandonment with the magic house.

So, we have arrived.  I am … taping the poem, “Shaker: Wilma Rudolph Appears While Riding the Althea Gibson Highway Home” to the house and everyone in the man-made parking lot behind the house will be able to wonder about it.

And maybe the bunnies and birds who know how to read will get a little inspiration for their evening songs (but that’s just the Grimm Fairytale/Anne-Sexton-fairytale-rewrites Princess in me, whispering).

The back of the princess house.

The stairs I thought I might fall through.

More lovely, historical stair views.

30 Days of Public Poetry, Poem on a Stoop

I just thought this was an awesome window design. Like a doily or something.

Poem in a Window of a Stoned Castle

2 thoughts on ““Still Recognizable by the Girl Scout Gap in my Two Front Teeth” – Nikki Finney

  1. bea mannes says:

    I love the house, and it is a shame it will be demolished. As for the rest of the story, young girls, etc., not sure how I feel about that. A bit too graphic for me.


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