Ode to Family Photographs

Ode to Family Photographs
by Gary Soto

Mama was never good at pictures.

This is a statue of a famous general who lost an arm, 
And this is me with my head fut off. 

This a trash can chained to a gate, 
This is my father with his eyes half-closed.

This a photograph of my sister
And a giraffe looking over her shoulder. 

This is our car's front bumper. 
This is a bird with a pretzel in its beak.
This is my brother Pedro standing on one leg on a rock. 
With a smear of chocolate on his face. 

Mama sneezed when she looked
Behind the camera: the snapshots are blurry,
The angles dizzy as a spin on a merry-go-round.

But we had fun when Mama picked up the camera.
How can I tell?
Each of us laughing hard. 
Can you see: I have candy in my mouth. 

Themes, Issues, Concepts
  • Latino poet
  • family
  • memories
  • ritual
Literary Terms
  • images
  • mood
  • patterns
  • structure
Write About It
 Bring in several photographs of yourself and your family when you were younger, taken at places and events you remember fondly. Using "Ode to Family Photographs" as a model, writ a list poem based on these photos. You list poem doesn't have to be humorous like Soto's. You might want to try more of a "documentary" list poem. 

Visual Images Album

Patterns/ Repetitions in "Ode to Family Photographs"

Read the poem again and see if you notice any patterns, such as words and phrases that are repeated throughout the poem. Patterns need not occur  in every line. 
 What words begin many of the first twelve lines?

 Many of the first twelve lines follow this patterns:This is (noun) (modifier/description/ action). For example, This is the pond in the first line. Write out the lines and parts of lines in the poem that follow this pattern: