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The Lightning Letter

The Lightning Letter

Snapping, Beans?


Snapping Beans

by Lisa Parker (b. 1971)

I snapped beans into the silver bowl

that sat on the splintering slats

of the porchswing between my grandma and me.

I was home for the weekend,

from school, from the North,

Grandma hummed “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”

as the sun rose, pushing its pink spikes

through the slant of cornstalks,

through the fly-eyed mesh of the screen.

We didn’t speak until the sun overcame

the feathered tips of the cornfield

and Grandma stopped humming.  I could feel

the soft gray of her stare

against the side of my face

when she asked, How’s school a-goin?

I wanted to tell her about my classes,

the revelations by book and lecture

as real as any shout of faith,

potent as a swig of strychnine.

She reached the leather of her hand

over the bowl and cupped

my quivering chin;

the slick smooth of her palm held my face

the way she held cherry tomatoes under the spigot,                                        

careful not to drop them,

and I wanted to tell her

about the nights I cried into the familiar

heartsick panels of the quilt she made me,

wishing myself home on the evening star.

I wanted to tell her

the evening star was a planet,                                                 

that my friends wore noserings and wrote poetry                                           

about sex, about alcoholism, about Buddha.

I wanted to tell her

how my stomach burned acidic holes

at the thought of speaking in class,

speaking in an accent, speaking out of turn,

how I was tearing, splitting myself apart

with the slow-simmering guilt of being happy

despite it all.

I said, School’s fine.

We snapped beans into the silver bowl between us

and when a hickory leaf, still summer green,                                      

skidded onto the porchfront,                                                                      

Grandma said,

It’s funny how things blow loose like that.


The poem, Snapping Beans by Lisa Parker, is about the complexity of emotions connected to changes in one’s life, through the eyes of a young female college student who has just returned from college. She has gone to visit her grandma for the weekend and one morning they sit on a porch together to chat about school. The grandma tries to start a conversation with her grand-daughter by asking her, “How’s school a-goin?” but her granddaughter has trouble expressing her emotions and feelings to her grandmother, prompting her to say,” it’s fine”.  In Snapping Beans, Lisa Parker utilizes repetition and symbolism to express the insecurities kids face when they start to first interact with the world on their own.

Lisa parker first uses symbolism in lines 45-51 to represent the relationship between the grandma and the grand- daughter,” We snapped beans into the silver bowl between us and when a hickory leaf, still summer green…Grandma said, “It’s funny how things blow loose like that.” The hickory leaf figuratively shows how the grand daughter is falling away from her upbringing. The granddaughter could be afraid of disappointing her grandmother now that she’s been learning about sex, alcoholism, and Buddha, all of which are seen as sinful in certain religions. This could play a major part as to why she may be struggling to communicate her true feelings, Because the grandmother could be religious.

Secondly Lisa Parker demonstrates repetition in her poem giving us an insight as to how the poem is viewed as well. It can be inferred that has a lot on her mind- seeing that the poem resembles her train of thoughts and is written in first-person. Repetition is seen in multiple lines such as lines 16, ”I wanted to tell her about my classes…”, lines 27, “ …and I wanted to tell her about nights I cried…”, lines 31, ” I wanted to tell her the evening star was a planet, that my friends wore nose rings and wrote poetry about sex, about alcoholism, about Buddha…”, and lines 37, “ I wanted to tell her how my…” all of these lines of repetition give examples of the grand-daughter’s struggles to communicate and express herself properly towards her grandmother. All these encounters and adventures she wanted to relay onto her grandmother, but never did.

In conclusion, not only did Lisa Parker use repetition to illustrate the difficulty in which the granddaughter had with communicating properly, but she also utilizes symbolism to represent the sort of distance being created between the two.


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About the Contributor
Branden Perez
Branden Perez, Staff Writer
Branden is a senior at James Lawson who enjoys lifting weights.  He is pretty active, participating in JLHS Varsity Soccer team. He enjoys buffalo chicken with mac and cheese.
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