Dear Mr. Hirsch,
My name is Hannah. I’m a sophomore in high school in Draper, Utah. I really enjoy going on random adventures and eating French fries, pizza, hot tamales and chocolate milk. In my English class, we had to read a selection of poems and choose our favorite one. During the process of reading poems, I never thought I would connect to a poem and thought that I would just have to choose a random one, but that all changed when I read your poem “Cotton Candy.”
I hope you don’t mind a long story about my Grandfather, but I’d like to tell you about him. My Grandfather died of cancer when I was in eighth grade. While reading your poem I thought of the most poignant memory of him and I. One day, my Grandfather, my dog and I were running in the yard. I was chasing my dog and my Grandfather was chasing me. We ran from our house to the neighbor’s house and he was out of breath. I asked him why he was out of breath with just such a short run. He said, “It’s because I smoke and it’s hard for me to run and breathe like you.” Then I asked him if he can’t run without being out of breath why would he still smoke. He told me he didn’t know. I then asked him to stop smoking because it made me upset.
A couple of months later my Grandfather called me and told me he had quit smoking “cold turkey” because of how upset I had been with him smoking. I realized that this wasn’t the last memory of him, it is just the one that sticks out the most. While reading your poem I couldn’t recall the last memory I had of him even though he was a predominant figure in my life.
The thought of me not recalling my last memory of him hit home hard. I thought about it for many days until I could recall the memory and put the pieces back together. I remember going to his house and my Grandma making us her Polish food and us sitting down to eat dinner. We talked about life and my Grandfather was snappy until we played cards. After dinner, we would play Euchre and we were always partners. He would split the deck by taking all the cards except for the bottom one and making the opponent put just that one cad on top of the deck and every time he would look at me and laugh. When he was playing he wasn’t snappy which made the time more memorable.
After he died I remember walking into the funeral home and crying so much because I saw him lying there and that’s when I realized this actually happened. I thought I could handle it, but the first little old lady that spoke kind words to me created such sadness inside me that I latched onto her even though I didn’t know who she was.
“We walked on the bridge over the Chicago River for what turned out to be the last time, and I ate cotton candy, that sugary air, that sweet blue light spun out of nothingness.” This beginning part of your poem makes me think about my last memory with my grandpa and how amazing it was with him and how much it meant to me. It makes me feel like I need to treasure that memory my whole life because you can’t just forget the important people in your life. The other quote or phrase that had meaning to me was “it was just a moment, really, nothing more.” It just really hit me hard that it was a moment that’s really it. That life is full of these moments and they are just forgotten about later in life, but even though it was just a moment it was an important and special one.
I hope you don’t mind questions, because I have too many. Okay, so what made you want to write this? What jogged your memory to where you decided to write this poem about him? Where was your grandfather from? How long did it take you to write this? What’s your favorite poem you wrote? What’s your favorite poem someone else wrote that you just enjoy reading?
I want to know that your poem doesn’t just affect your life, but everyone who reads it and has memories of their Grandfathers. I want to thank you for writing about your life with your Grandfather in a poem so that it would inspire me to think of my Grandfather. I think it’s amazing that you could create such deep memories with such short sweet words. I hope you continue to write and inspire future generations and I want to thank you for writing this.