Poem of the Week, by Derek Sheffield

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Write about a powerful moment in your childhood, a time when you felt seen, heard, acknowledged and powerful,  for exactly who you were.

This was the ten-minute writing prompt a few weeks ago in my Writing for Children and Young Adults class. Memories conjured themselves up around the room. A boy known as the Fat Kid watched a Chris Farley sketch and ran to the mirror to begin practicing comedy. A shy girl, quiet and overshadowed by the big sister who had always scoffed at her taste in music, received a package filled with homemade mix tapes of classic rock songs put together by that same big sister’s college roommate, with a note that began, “So I hear you like classic rock. And so do I.” 

And a little girl watching her older sister perform a play, in Hmong, the language that she had grown up speaking and hearing only in the safety of her family home, and felt for the first time “that I was at a place that wasn’t home, but that in my heart felt like home.” 

I listened to these stories and felt like crying. It takes so little, in the life of a child. A single moment can either take away their power or infuse them with it, as in this beautiful poem below.

 

First Grade, by Derek Sheffield
Sunday afternoon and she looks up
from her drawing, wants to know
if I know the game where you put
your head down and thumb up

until someone picks you.
“Yes,” I say, across the room and half-
listening. “‘Well, I always pick my friends
but they never pick me.” I pause

in the middle of a sentence.
“Who are your friends?”
“Everyone!” she says, as if I had asked
one plus one or the color of the sky.

Sunlight draws a skewed rectangle
across the floor. “I see,” I say
and let my notebook close, seeing
children in rows, heads on desks,

her big ears poking through sandy hair,
listening for a step or a breath, “Yes,
I remember that game.” And I stand
and walk over to find the outline of her hand

plunging through a white sky.    

 

 

​For more information on​ Derek Sheffield, please click here

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Poem of the Week, by Derek Walcott

img_5354This fall I’m teaching a class on identity and race and creative writers. Last week’s assignment was to choose an author from the wonderful anthology A Good Time for the Truthsomeone influential to you personally, and write about why. One of my African students, in a short, beautiful paper, wrote of the importance of reminding her black American-born nephews that “. . . they are not what the media or the world portrays them to be. They are what those who love them see in them.” And what they see in themselves. Which reminds me of this poem by the wondrous Derek Walcott, a poem I don’t often live out myself, but which I love and aspire to anyway.

 

Love After Love, by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome, and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

For more information on Derek Walcott, please click here.

Poem of the Week, by Bob Hicok

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This one goes out to all those who keep the world humming. To the servers and mechanics and plumbers and caterers and farmers and housecleaners and personal care attendants and orderlies and shift workers and convenience store clerks and landscapers and migrant workers and everyone else publicly championed and secretly scorned by those in power. We need more plumber poems, I always say to my students, we need more veteran poems and housecleaner poems and migrant worker poems. Write them. The world needs them. 

 

By Their Works

     – Bob Hicok

Who cleaned up the Last Supper? 
These would be my people. 
Maybe hung over, wanting 
desperately a better job,
standing with rags
in hand as the window
beckons with hills
of yellow grass. In Da Vinci,
the blue robed apostle
gesturing at Christ
is saying, give Him the check.
What a mess they’ve made
of their faith. My God
would put a busboy
on earth to roam
among the waiters
and remind them to share
their tips. The woman
who finished one
half eaten olive
and scooped the rest
into her pockets,
walked her tiny pride home
to children who looked
at her smile and saw
the salvation of a meal.
All that week
at work she ignored
customers who talked
of Rome and silk
and crucifixions,
though she couldn’t stop
thinking of this man
who said thank you
each time she filled
His glass.

 
 
​For more information on Bob Hicok, please click here.​