Writing Portfolio: Five Essays on America

















My Grandfather’s War Story


When I first heard the assignment that we had to do, I thought of what I would write it about. The first thing that popped into my head was the story that my father had told me about my grandfather. I approached him and asked if he could tell me the story about him, even though I had heard it numerous times before that. So, he proceeded to tell me the story. My grandfather was young when he was drafted for the war. He was around nineteen years of age when he went.

He was to be a medic for the army. He was one of those heroes that stormed the beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944. While hearing the story, I could almost feel how worried my grandfather was heading towards the shores in those boats; how scared he was to know that he might not see his family again. I know that he lost many friends that sad yet glorious day in the history of the world. But they were victorious nonetheless.

My grandfather’s job in the army was to heal any that were wounded and to make sure they didn’t die. I know, from stories that this was not a pleasant thing to do. The first thing I thought of was the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” How horribly gruesome that was. I always think of my grandfather as a hero for that experience he went through.

Today, my grandfather has passed away and I am left with only pictures and my memory. I do believe that America owes a lot to my grandfather, and those who fought along side him, for what he has kept for this country and world. He gave the best years of his life to the army and his nation. He has ensured peace in the world for now. For that I thank him.














In my yard, there is a path around my house, and there you will see the place where I have gone everyday for two weeks.  This place has memories for me of my childhood and how much fun I had on that simple little rock and the tree beside it.  But I was not there to ponder memories of my childhood; rather, I note all of the physical changes that occur over that brief two-week period.  I watched the changes that nature had done to this place, and the changes were numerous.  
     One day, while noting the changes that were rapidly occurring all around me, a question came to my mind.  I was noting how there was a cool, brisk breeze whipping by me.  All of the leaves were falling off of the tree.  While the wind blew harshly on the leaves, it looked at if they were hanging on for there dear life.  I thought, does the leaf fear falling from that tree?  Is it at home when it is there?  Or do they look forward to falling to the ground with there “friends.”  Is it looked upon as a defeat by the wind, or is it a victory and an honor to have ended its life on the ground with the others.  Is it like a race to see who can fall to the ground first, or who can stay on the longest?  Why I was thinking these thoughts, I don’t know, but it was very interesting to not look at life from the perspective of a human and to look upon life from the point of view of a simple leaf in the tree.  
     I also noted the rock that lies next to the tree in my yard.  How must it feel to be a rock? People look upon it as a stupid rock that doesn’t do anything except lay there, as an emotionless piece of matter, and that may be true.  Maybe that rock does has feelings.  That is something that a lot of people do not think about.  Does the rock curse God or whatever created him for making him a rock? Or does he like where he is in the great scheme of life.  He might like sitting there taking everything in.  He definitely had a lot to take in about me alone; I spent countless hours in my backyard and on that rock as a little kid.  Does it make it feel good that I used to play on it or around it? I will never know.  For a brief moment, I envied that rock.  To just sit there for thousands of years and not have a care in the world and to take everything in.  I can only imagine the knowledge that rock has, can you?
     I know by what I noted and thought about this place that it is an American one.  I know this because that rock and that tree were here long before I lived in that area.  Maybe it was even there before people were in this wonderful country of ours.  It is places like this that are the most American, purely American.  Not some building or something that man has built and called America.  Buildings do not make up what America is; it is places like this that make up America.  I know this because if all of the buildings, and dams, and baseball stadiums, and all the other man-made structures were destroyed, America would still be alive in places like the rock in my backyard.













Walking down Landsdown Street that Friday night, coming from a great Red Sox game; or as many people had put it,"a wicked pissa Sox game dude!"  I had my brother and my friends as my company that night.  They were discussing the game that we had witnessed. I dont know what made me first notice it, but I started to listen to a conversation a group of guys were having ten feet away.  "That game was pissa!"
    "wickid dude, wickid."
    "That homerun Nomaa (Nomar) hit was wickid fa, it cleared the Paak!" (park)
    "one-a the best games I've eva seen! But Anyways, where'd you paak the caa?" (car)
    "I dont know man, do you rememba Caal?" (carl)
    "Nah dude, its youa caa, not mine!"
    I toned out of the conversation at that point.  Listening to them made me think.  There are three types of people who live in Boston.  The first, the group who moved here from another place.  They are the ones that stand out the most.  You can pick them out of a crowd with no problem at all.  When they say the word "CaR" with that R, in front of a group of Bostonians, you know there not from Boston.  The second group, is the group who doesnt include the R, but it seems natural, like they're not trying to do it.  And lastly, the group who when listening to them, make it seem like they go out of their wat to say "AAAA" instead of the R.  They say it with that annoying tone of voice too, its obnoxious.  I toned back in....
    "hey, wataya doin tomorra?"
    "goin to work, and i gotta visit me motha too, she's wickid sick."
    "Cool dude."
    A man walked over to them, one of their new friends i assumed.
    "hey, how are you?"
    BINGO! an out-of-towner, from ten feet away!
    "hey, do you know where we paaked the caa?"
    "the caa?"
    "yaa, the caa!"
    "the car you mean?"
    "no, the caa!"
    I could only laugh, and watch them depart, still confused with eachother...still arguing.














     Edgar Allen Poe is one of the most famous poets of all time.  He grew up in Baltimore, Maryland.  He spent most of his life surrounded by death.  All of the young women that he came to know and love were taken from him in some way.  With a childhood such as that, it is no wonder why his works came out the way they did.  His works are mysterious, and yet in a way, very much scary when thought about.  Especially, his most famous work, The Raven. Because of today’s movies and other scary things we encounter, when reading this poem, it does not seem scary in the least.  We expect the scariness to jump out at us, not for us to go looking for it.  When this is done in a poem, it is like a classic scary movie, or in this case, story.  In this poem, the writer uses many techniques to intensify the terror

     One element that accomplishes this is the rhyme scheme.  In this poem, there is no distinct rhyme scheme.  It appears like when anything that happens in the poem occurs; he was thinking what he put on the paper, as if he never meant to rhyme at all.  An example of this is:
               Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
and each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow…

As you can see, it is as if he is telling us a story, and he is also writing a poem at the same time. While he makes it seem as if he is talking about the present, I believe that there is another meaning to that quote as well. I believe that the line is giving us a flashback of his wife’s death.  About that first night when he came home to an empty house and just sat in front of the fire, alone.  This asset to the poem made is more enjoyable to read.

     While doing this, the poem also makes it scarier by using interior monologue.  Interior monologue is when what you are reading is what the poet/writer is thinking.  When you know what the reader is thinking, then you know the writer’s fears as well as yours, making the poem scarier.  One example of this in the poem is:

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore-
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never- nevermore'."

As you can tell from reading the quote from the poem, the narrator is startled or even scared at this point.  He has said something to the raven and the raven actually responded with “nevermore.”  Now if you are the reader, you know that he is nervous, making the story he tells a little bit scarier itself.  In this quote he is trying to make an excuse for something, like the raven didn’t say that on purpose, it was taught to him by a former master and he says it every now and then.  I think that he blames himself for the death of his wife and in this part of the poem; he is trying to think of excuses.

       The poem is scarier because of all the great detail that the author goes into of his surroundings.  Not just the surroundings, but the noises that he hears while experiencing the “tapping,” and the “rapping,” of the raven.  One line that describes this well is: “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,” the poems opening line.  The details he goes into are very deep.  The traditional story starts out with once upon a time, this poem starts out in midnight.  He draws great attention to that because it is the first line of the poem.  I think that this poem is describing his life.  How he is so alone and how since he is alone he is “weak and weary.”

     The Raven is my favorite poem in all of poetry.  I believe that it is a scary poem for all of these reasons and more.  I also believe that the poem is timeless because of its terrifying aspect to it.  It may not be considered a scary poem to some people, but sometimes you have to go looking for the scariness in a poem, instead of waiting for it to jump out at you.