Saturday, March 31, 2007

Crossing the Ocean

I'm packing my suitcase and readying myself for a very long flight.
But on the other side there will be friends waiting and a new part of the world to explore.
I'll be back in two weeks with stories to tell.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poetry Thursday: The Beginning of Wonder

This week's Poetry Thursday prompt is to use an image as inspiration for a poem. I've been taking a lot of pictures at school to document our greenhouse transformation. We've started some urban gardening worm composting and I love seeing my city kids find touchpoints to nature. This is a rough, rough draft at a poem...right now the picture is about as much poem I have energy for. I guess this is my attempt at a composting poem.

this is the beginning of wonder

that we could throw our lunch
into the grainy soil of the Earth,
where she will hold it in her round belly
chewing it over days and months
spitting it out
as new dirt

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Day in Numbers

We just finished our last day of testing. A snapshot, with inspiration from Harper's Index.

Kids who cried: 4
Cups of water spilled: 1
Granola bars eaten: 15
Pieces of gum chewed: 28
Appearances by Supergirl (aka Brooke wearing pink sunglasses and sweatshirt cape): 1
Headaches: 2
Songs we thought of with the word love in it: 7
Kids who hate school pizza: 3
Food for worms: 20 ounces
Times danced the Tooty-ta-ta: 2
Times danced old school soul train before sounding like elephants: 1
Times said I hate this test: 24
Times said You want me to fail this test so you can keep me back with you next year: 1
Times said I know it's hard, but if you don't know what to do, make a guess: 132 (okay, rough estimate)
Injuries in gym: 2
Talks in the hallway to work out a friendship problem: 2
Double-doubles in morning circle: 5
Slides across the floor during break: 6
Plants watered: 21
Deep breaths taken when it's all over: 14 + 1 teacher


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Ten

This has been a long week. THE TEST has started and the worms have arrived and yesterday the AIDS people returned to hand out prizes and pamphlets.

After an endless morning of coloring bubbles we tried to coast through the afternoon. At 4:00 we reported to the gym to hear a twenty-one year old woman speak about her experience with AIDS.

I'm off my medicine, she proclaimed. I'm tired of taking it.
I wake up every morning and hate what I see in the mirror.

The test weary audience was glazed over with only a few giggles when things like anal sex and vaginal fluid came up.

Then it was time to go around to tables set up with brochures and pamphlets and tablets and pencils...all the things a bunch of kids will lap up like a treasure. They were handed shiny red bags to hold all their paper. Just as they were leaving, a teacher discovered that there were also condoms. Handfuls of condoms: strawberry and lime, female and ribbed...our ten year olds had strips of condoms piled in their bags.

I am not opposed to educating kids about contraceptives but I do think it's important to actually educate them, not throw them in a bag and hand it to them like candy. ("I want a piece of candy!" one first grader whined while passing by) And I think ten is too young. It's already the beginning of crossing out of childhood. No one wants a bag full of condoms with that.

And so, I share this recently discovered poem by Billy Collins. I keep reading the last two stanzas over and over again because they are that perfect.

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I'm coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light--
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

-- Billy Collins

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Saturday, March 10, 2007


One of the things that I love about teaching, is that you never know when you will stumble into a new adventure.

We have a small greenhouse at the school that has never been used and last year I wrote a grant to get it up and running. I know next to nothing about growing and planting things. My thumb is not green and I've killed more plants than I can count. But that has not stopped me from taking on a project I perhaps should better leave to someone with more experience. After a big cleanup, we got to growing things. The sun is pouring in and we're watering every day, it was a relief to see sprouts on Tuesday morning. Then I ordered 1,000 worms off the internet so we can begin composting...something else I know nothing about.


we hold the seeds in our palms
hard brown specks

we can’t believe their potential
can’t believe this is the beginning
of life

that this knobby lint
will poke out
of the earth in green

could any other miracle
be this simple?

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Red

This week's Poetry Thursday topic is Red. I kept looking for red this week but everything seemed grey and green. The only red I could find was the lines of brick rowhouses. And no poem was coming from there this week.

Then tonight I was making marinara sauce and thinking about the movie Mostly Martha (a favorite of mine) which tells the story of a chef. It has all sorts of beautiful food scenes in it. And I just recently found the main musical theme of the movie, which I also love. So I set to writing a food inspired poem to Country by Keith Jarrett on repeat. I think the poem may be trying to go in a few too many directions, but here's my offering for this week.


the tomatoes
swim out of the can--
fibrous hearts,
stringy and bloated

this is the beginning of destiny

they want to fall
in the lap
of an Italian grandmother
they want to be part
of the one true sauce

but it is only weeknight
trial and error
let’s get dinner on the table

the most ordinary fate
of tomatoes

this generosity of life
the garlic, the wine
the sticky pasta

that we wake up every morning