Poem of the Week: “Drum Dream Girl” by Margarita Engle

This week’s poem was chosen by Center for Poetry intern, Charlotte Krause. “I chose it because I think we all need a little mid-winter pick-me-up poem and I love this one because of all the beautiful imagery and cultural references!”

Drum Dream Girl

On an island of music

in a city of drumbeats

the drum dream girl



of pounding tall conga drums

tapping small bongó drums

and boom boom booming

with long, loud sticks

on big, round, silvery

moon-bright timbales.


But everyone

on the island of music

in the city of drumbeats

believed that only boys

should play drums


so the drum dream girl

had to keep dreaming






At outdoor cafés that looked like gardens

she heard drums played by men

but when she closed her eyes

she could also hear

her own imaginary



When she walked under

wind-wavy palm trees

in a flower-bright park

she heard the whir of parrot wings

the clack of woodpecker beaks

the dancing tap

of her own footsteps

and the comforting pat

of her own



At carnivals, she listened

to the rattling beat

of towering


on stilts


and the dragon clang

of costumed drummers

wearing huge masks.


At home, her fingertips

rolled out their own

dreamy drum rhythm

on tables and chairs…


and even though everyone

kept reminding her that girls

on the island of music

have never played drums


the brave drum dream girl

dared to play

tall conga drums

small bongó drums

and big, round, silvery

moon-bright timbales.


Her hands seemed to fly

as they rippled


and pounded

all the rhythms

of her drum dreams.


Her big sisters were so excited

that they invited her to join

their new all-girl dance band


but their father said only boys

should play drums.


So the drum dream girl

had to keep dreaming

and drumming



until finally

her father offered

to find a music teacher

who could decide if her drums


to be heard.


The drum dream girl’s

teacher was amazed.

The girl knew so much

but he taught her more

and more

and more


and she practiced

and she practiced

and she practiced


until the teacher agreed

that she was ready

to play her small bongó drums

outdoors at a starlit café

that looked like a garden


where everyone who heard

her dream-bright music


and danced

and decided

that girls should always

be allowed to play



and both girls and boys

should feel free

to dream.

Source: Drum Dream Girl (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015)

Published by cpoetrymsu

The Center for Poetry opened in the fall of 2007 to encourage the reading, writing, and discussion of poetry and to create an awareness of the place and power of poetry in our everyday lives. We think about this in a number of ways, including through readings, shows, community outreach, and workshops. We are at work building a poetry community at MSU and in the greater Lansing area. Contact: cpoetry@msu.edu (517) 884-1932 http://www.poetry.rcah.msu.edu

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