My mother has a gap between
her two front teeth. So does Daddy Gunnar.
Each child in this family has the same space
Our baby brother, Roman, was born pale as dust.
His soft brown curls and eyelashes stop
people on the street.
Whose angel child is this? they want to know.
When I say, My brother, the people
thick as a cape
until we smile
and the cape falls.
I could count how many times I have read a poem that I truly relate to on one hand. Seldom do I connect with poetry on a level of familiarity, but this particular poem immediately resonated with me. For my entire life, I have been singled out, picked on, praised, and even questioned about my most unique feature: my gap. After losing my two front teeth as a child, I was sure that they would grow back in the same way as they were prior to me losing them; I was wrong.
My teeth came back with a space that would be with me forever. The idea of getting rid of my gap bothers me and even brings me to the brink of dissapointment. Why would I get rid of something so beautiful?
Jacqueline Woodson was a poet I came across during my search for a poem for Poetry Out Loud. Once I found her poem Genetics I was immediately intrigued. I had never seen a poem with such a title; a simple word with such a heavy meaning.
Upon reading the poem, my first thought was, “Wow. This is literally my life.” The parallels within the poem matched perfectly with my life. Like the speaker in the poem, I, too, have a family gene of the famous gap. No matter how big or small it is, every member of my family has a gap. The most prominent carriers of the gene happen to be me and my siblings. My brother and sister don’t have a large gap like me, but theirs surely isn’t in hiding.
Our infamous gap is behind the various questions of “Are you guys related?” or, my personal favorite when it is just my sister and I, “Are you two twins or sisters?” These questions never fail to bring a smile to our faces as we know how distinct that feature is and how personal it is to us.
For Jacqueline Woodson to bring that same smile to my face as I read her poem, I thank her. Her simple words and short lines told a story that I knew well. It tells a story that I dream of being able to tell someone one day. It was almost like I could envision myself saying the poem to a stranger who asked me about my gap or to someone who doubted my relation to my brother or sister. I could see myself as the speaker.
Strictly praising the content of the poem, I also want to give praise to the simplistic structure of the poem. I am a strong believer in shorter poems holding more weight. The words are carefully picked and placed together strategically. With longer poems, I feel, you have more room to throw in “filler” words, creating a disconnect between the reader and the poem.
Jacqueline Woodson worded this poem perfectly, not wasting time on descriptions, but rather being completely present in that moment. The structure of the poem was an interesting aspect. I don’t dwell too much on poem structures considering the possibilities are endless for how a poem can look. Personally, I like to see the various ways a poem can be structured, I even practice changing the structure of my own poems from time to time. The overall poem had great pacing, strong word choice, and also has a very welcoming and relatable tone to it.
I love this poem and I think you all will too! Check it out and let me know what you think!