ddrummer realtime

free counters

Monday, February 28, 2011

If by magic you could slice off the facade of Jennifer Acosta’s red- and cream-colored house in Woodhaven, Queens, you would find most of the people she feels closest to in the world.

Poetry Pairing | Feb. 24, 2011

By KATHERINE SCHULTEN
UNCLE AND AUNT OVERHEAD Jennifer Acosta and her sons, Derek, 12, and JanPaul, 5, live in an apartment in a house that she bought with a sister and a brother and their families.Uli Seit for The New York Times Uncle and aunt overhead: Jennifer Acosta and her sons, Derek, 12, and JanPaul, 5, live in an apartment in a house that she bought with a sister and a brother and their families. Go to related article »
In our weekly “Poetry Pairing” series, we collaborate with the Poetry Foundation to feature a work from its American Life in Poetry project alongside content from The Times that somehow echoes, extends or challenges the poem’s themes. Each poem is introduced briefly by Ted Kooser, a former United States poet laureate.
This week’s pairing: the poem “The Aunts” and a 2010 article from the Real Estate section, “With Family Built In.”


Poem

I love poems that celebrate families, and here’s a fine one by Joyce Sutphen of Minnesota, a poet who has written dozens of poems I’d like to publish in this column if there only were weeks enough for all of them.
—Ted Kooser
The Aunts
By Joyce Sutphen
I like it when they get together
and talk in voices that sound
like apple trees and grape vines,
and some of them wear hats
and go to Arizona in the winter,
and they all like to play cards.
They will always be the ones
who say “It is time to go now,”
even as we linger at the door,
or stand by the waiting cars, they
remember someone — an uncle we
never knew — and sigh, all
of them together, like wind
in the oak trees behind the farm
where they grew up — a place
I remember — especially
the hen house and the soft
clucking that filled the sunlit yard.

Times Selection Excerpt

In a 2010 article in the Real Estate section, “With Family Built In,” Constance Rosenblum writes:
If by magic you could slice off the facade of Jennifer Acosta’s red- and cream-colored house in Woodhaven, Queens, as if it were one of those dollhouses that open to reveal what lies within, you would find most of the people she feels closest to in the world.
Ms. Acosta, who is divorced and works in Manhattan as a personal assistant, shares the snug ground-floor unit with her two sons, Derek, who is 12, and JanPaul, 5.
The second floor is home to Ms. Acosta’s older sister, Jacqueline Andrade, who works as a nanny, and Jacqueline’s husband, Diego, who installs hardwood floors, as well as their daughter, Fernanda, 16.
On the top floor live Ms. Acosta’s older brother, Luis Garcia, a warehouse supervisor, along with his wife, Alexandra, a former day care worker, and their 14-year-old son, Calvin.
Even siblings besotted with one another might think twice about choosing to spend their days and nights under a single smallish roof. But for these three grown children, Ecuadorean immigrants raised largely in a one-bedroom apartment near Fordham Road in the Bronx, the arrangement offered an escape from cramped quarters in a troubled part of the city.
…Certain shared practices have assumed the quality of rituals. When Hilda Perez, the mother of the three adult siblings, telephones from Ecuador, where she now lives (their father died in 2001), everyone hurries to Ms. Andrade’s apartment to talk to her on speakerphone.
And did we mention the parties? The two teenagers, Calvin and Fernanda, have back-to-back July birthdays, so that celebration is always a big event. But really, any excuse will do.
“We celebrate everything, and I mean everything,” Ms. Acosta said. “Ecuadoreans just love parties.”
Especially in good weather, the festivities take place in the concrete yard behind the house, generally on a Saturday night. Tables and chairs are dragged out, and everyone pitches in to grill the pork ribs and skirt steak. The adults play cards, and the loser gets dumped in the inflatable pool.
After you’ve read the poem and article, tell us what you think — or suggest other Times content that could be paired with the poem instead.
To learn more about the collaboration, and to find ideas for using any week’s pairing for teaching and learning, see this post.
Ms. Sutphen’s most recent book of poems is “First Words.” This poem is reprinted by permission of Ms. Sutphen and the publisher, Red Dragonfly Press.

Blog Archive