“1969” by Tiel Aisha Ansari, a poem from her prizewinning chapbook, The Day of My First Driving Lesson, released in January 2021, by The Poetry Box, has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize.
Please enjoy the poem, and feel free to leave a comment.
The day I got the best advice of my life was the day
I asked my mother, why do some kids believe in Santa?
I knew where gifts came from. Grandparents sent them.
Aunts and uncles. Family friends. Real people.
Christmas meant leaving Philadelphia in the dark,
cold dawn over domes with chemical names
looming above the marshes along the New Jersey Turnpike
among strange stinks that woke me in the back seat.
Across tidal flats with no sea in sight
Manhattan’s skyline floated against a smoggy horizon:
grey towers over a tangle of asphalt loops,
rows of brownstones, cliffs of New York granite.
In the shadow of the George Washington Bridge
(which I thought of as an extra grandparent)
we ate roast lamb with macaroni and cheese
with my father’s family in Yonkers
or after a visit to the Buddhist temple in the Bronx,
noodle soup, stewed pork hocks, peanut and pressed-tofu salad.
I said we shouldn’t leave the tree, in case the glass birds
ate the toy fruit decorations. Grownups called me “imaginative.”
We unwrapped presents, thank-you-hugged the givers
played Pounce and Scrabble, went to bed in guest rooms
or fell asleep in homebound cars
clutching new toys and warm with hugs.
I couldn’t see what Santa had to do with it. I had to ask.
My mother said: “Some people think lying to children
doesn’t count as lying.”