Package from America
A package has arrived
From the Women’s Missionary Prayer Fellowship
Of First Alliance Church
In Savannah, Georgia.
We push back from plates graced
With chunks of curried chicken on sweet
Jasmine rice, anointed with coconut
And soft slices of fresh-picked mango.
Snap of string, tear of tape,
And as the box breaks open,
The promise of abundant life
Radiates from the package
And we can feel the presence of
Jesus, Nixon and Mickey Mouse all
Rolled into one.
Now my father lifts up
Oval cans of Spam
And Kraft cheese food.
Large jars of Tang.
Rolls of cherry Life Savers.
And then, pressed between paper towels
Lovingly dried and the strings only
Just a little brown,
A handsome collection
Of used tea bags.
My father, a lover of tea,
Speaks carefully of these gracious women
So kind and considerate, taking time
To pluck wet bags from the wastebasket
Bags clearly still good enough for one last
Dunking in the warm waters of Siam.
Then, putting aside his own cup
Brewed with fresh leaves picked
On some brisk Malaysian mountainside
He leaves the supper table
Leaving us to discover in our own good time
That Mickey is a rodent, Nixon is a crook,
And Jesus is far better served
Review by Jared Pearce
The overall idea in this poem—that we often trade what is wonderful for what is familiar, or just, in one sense, yummy (and I confess I’m thinking of the Life Savers rather than the Spam), and what is not as wonderful as what we might have thought—is evident. And while I like that contrast and see it at work in nearly every aspect of life in the United States, the images of the atrocious tea bags, of the false charity of the package-senders, the sense of a cornucopia unfolding before us that is full of expectation and, eventually and literally garbage, is so wonderfully awful, that the parable is a grotesque comedy of how we often make those trades. The question then comes subtly: what have I traded and lost today?
Review by Claire Scott
A lovely poignant poem about a package from the U.S. that is well intended, but totally misses. A wonderful comment on assumptions of Americans. It seems no one ever checked to see what the family might actually need. And yet the Spam, Kraft, Tang and Life Savers (a great choice!) are probably exotic gifts. The gentle lines “these gracious women/So kind and considerate” tell us a lot about the father helping his family receive the gift with gratitude. And then he leaves to let them discover their own feelings. I like the contrast between the father’s fresh-leaved tea and the used tea bags. You say a lot there! I love Jesus, Nixon and Mickey Mouse. The last lines are hilarious and bitter sweet.
Review by Paul Willis
I admire the precision and restraint of this poem, putting us in the place of a presumably missionary family overseas as they open a care package from a church in Georgia. The Spam, Kraft cheese, Tang, and Life Savers might or might not be just what they wanted, but the used tea bags are clearly an insult. The speaker records his father’s diplomatic response, but comes to his own conclusions about these “Unspeakable treasures” from the United States.