“Writing Poems on Zoom with My Grandchildren” by Wendy Mnookin

Wendy Mnookin


Lucy prefers cardboard
and crayons, scissors and glue—
she loves decorating a Poetry Box—
but she’s not so crazy
about writing. She makes faces
at the screen, adds emojis,
while I explain an ode is a poem
of praise. Pablo Neruda
wrote an ode to tomatoes!
He wrote an ode to bicycles!
OK, OK, she says,
pasting a smile on the screen.
She’ll write about Crossing Night—

At Crossing Night
we stopped cars
so salamanders
could cross the road.
She taps her pencil.
It was raining.
She taps her pencil.
Now can I draw a picture?

Max yawns into the screen,
insists he’s not tired.
Bored, maybe.
Something you love, I say.
Baseball? Minecraft? Star Wars?
He gives a sigh.
Blue, he says. The old dog
who’s going blind and deaf.

Sometimes when I lie down
next to her to scratch her ears
she doesn’t know it’s me.
Max looks into the corner of the screen
as if the next words might appear there.
Sometimes she growls.
He rocks a little in his chair.
I have to learn to be careful.

Eliza starts in so quickly
I wonder if she’s heard me.
You’re writing an ode? I say.
She nods. What are you praising?
She holds the poem out to me.

from Poets Respond
July 4, 2020


Wendy Mnookin: “The challenge of grandparents connecting with grandchildren is an ongoing one during the pandemic. In my own family, we responded by setting up regular poetry sessions together. I met with each of the three older children—10, 8, and 8—twice a week for 1/2 hour. Some of the poems were wonderful, some weren’t; the time together was a treasure for me. I have included a link, but it is not to an article for this week. There have been articles throughout the weeks and months of the pandemic about this connection.” (web)

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