My Head is Full of Poems that Barely Make it to the Page.

Student

This is how you use an apostrophe; this is how you use a semi colon; this is how you use a dash; this is how you analyze lyrics; this is how you analyze a poem; this is how you analyze a story; this is how you analyze a novel; this is a prefix; this is how you survive a school shooting; this is a suffix; this is how you write a letter; this is how you write a persuasive essay; but what if I don’t want to become a target? this is how you research; this is how you read for pleasure; this is how you read academically; this is how you write prose; this is how you write dialogue; this is how you write citations; this is how you infer; this is how you survive a school shooting; this is how you write an essay; this is how you summarize; this is how to think critically; but what if I head out the window instead of barricading myself in the classroom? this is how to paraphrase; this is how to write an expository essay; this is how to edit; this is how to revise; this is how to use diction; this is how to create tone; this is how to debate; this is how to write a call to action; this is how to survive a school shooting; this is how to create mood; this is how to identify point of view; this is how to comprehend; but what if I die? You mean to tell me after everything I’ve taught you that you really think you’re the one that’s going to die?

Thank you to my students and Jamaica Kincaid’s, “Girl,” for inspiration.

 

On meeting a homeless man in Flint

His handshake so smooth
from years of callouses
and cold-
Swollen to the point of
Skin tearing across tight.
Like a child putting on
too small tights
that their belly fat
doubles over the elastic waist
while their stocky legs are
sucked tightly into the nylon.
All I could offer was
a warm touch and
a cup full of pennies.

 

“Counterfactual”

When I was 12 years old
we took a trip to northern Michigan.
Mom and me in the front seats
waiting for dad and Tanner to
bring Diet Coke and fishing tackle
out from the store.
A man drunk stumbled near us
kept coming closer
and closer to the car
so I hit the lock button
and looked over at my mom
reading in the front seat-
Oblivious
Content
Safe.
How did I know that at this moment
our lives could have been altered
by one push of the button?

Thanks to Clint Smith for the inspiration.

 

34 Refugees drown trying to escape Lybia

while I vacationed in Southern California.
Drunken mimosa stumbling upon a beach
combing through rocks and shells-
a small smooth bone, a femur.
I didn’t think of my students
until I saw this headline later.

 

For Dunya. Omar. Abrar. Rasha. And others still.

 

Each week my seniors study a poem and then analyze, respond, and imitate it. A few of these are my imitation pieces. If you are interested in learning more, email me at: matterncarrie@gmail.com.

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