Friday, January 12, 2007

The Art of Storytelling

This poem was in today's Writer's Almanac--and it's so true! In my family, we have strong women stories. My great-great grandmother took her daughter from Kentucky to Oklahoma after her husband died and started a boarding house on the edge of what was then Oklahoma territory. My great-grandma was a year too young to participate in the land rush, but she saw it all, as people seeking land camped on their lawn and slept on their porch before the big event. She lived in Chickacha, Oklahoma, where there was a big reservation--she saw all the big chiefs riding into town for council. She would later go on to march as a sufragette and be a strong voice of influence for all who knew her. (Some would say those strong opinions weren't always welcome, but I loved--and love--her dearly. In her 80s, she would let me wrap her up in ace bandages and play hospital; she encouraged my interests; she told me land-rush stories; she always got me just the thing I hoped for at Christmastime. Thanks, Grandma Roos!)

Here's the poem:

    The Art of Storytelling

    Once upon a time there was a shocket,
    that is, a kosher butcher,
    who went for a walk.

    He was standing by the harbor
    admiring the ships, all painted white,
    when up came three sailors, led by an officer.
    "Filth," they said, "who gave you permission?"
    and they seized and carried him off.

    So he was taken into the navy.
    It wasn't a bad life — nothing is.
    He learned how to climb and sew,
    and to shout "Glad to be of service, Your Excellency!"
    He sailed all round the world,
    Was twice shipwrecked, and had other adventures.
    Finally, he made his way back to the village ...
    whereupon he put on his apron, and picked up his knife,
    and continued to be a shocket.

    At this point, the person telling the story
    would say, "This shocket-sailor
    was one of our relatives, a distant cousin."

    It was always so, they knew they could depend on it.
    Even if the story made no sense,
    the one in the story would be a relative —
    a definite connection with the family.


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