“Woman with Button Earrings” by Lily Hicks

Lily Hicks (age 14)


My grandmother dreams of the ocean
and chooses to waste her time
with clementine cut flowers and crossword puzzles,
brow thin and furrowed.

My grandmother keeps a telescope by the glass door,
but the trees are growing into her view of the water
and the bird feeder needs refilling—squirrels again.

My grandmother fills up cavities with sugar water
hummingbird food.

My grandmother laughs like the moon
and the Mississippi River. M I double S I double S I double P I,
she taught me to spell and read:
words are genetic.

She sells seashells by the seashore
Toy boat toy boat toy boat
When we drive to the zoo I help her read the street signs

And we always take the same path.
There’s a plate with my name on it
below the dancing feet of a painted pony,
bears and otters and elephants, oh my.
Aquarium, aquarium, sandpipers sing
to the snakes.
To the eagles, now, then across the bridge,
Around the corral on the back of a soulful nag

We still hold hands when we cross parking lots.

from 2019 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Lily Hicks: “My first favorite poem was Robert Frost’s ‘Birches,’ which I didn’t really understand when it was my favorite poem, but I knew that there was something magical about his ability to make me understand the experience of shimmying up a stark birch trunk without ever having attempted this feat myself. Our words can create ideas in the heads of others (a miracle!), and the poem is the perfect medium with which to usher this transfer. I just started college, and I now prefer Plath and Olds to Frost, but both myself and fourteen-year-old Lily hope that she will be able to create the idea of her beloved grandmother, with her words, in your head.”

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