At the beginning of May, our TFA training included an assignment to write a poem about the words we hear and use and want at school. We were forty first-year teachers almost finished with that first year and the forms our poems took were varied but so connected. You could hear the day 171 knowledge vibrating with regret at knowledge we didn't have day 1; you could hear the curse words our kids cautiously test out and the swears we drop over dinner; you could hear the humor and the hubris and the hope for next year when maybe just maybe we can use words a little bit better and take our kids a little bit farther.
40-some of us read - only one sent me theirs (and a few OWE ME THEIRS ahem - email me and I'll add 'em), but I wanted to post them here because I felt they captured the rhythm of days here better than I could write. Having all forty would be best but two will have to do -
(This is the first time I've posted a poem in a public place since I contributed to a, um, poetry blog during my freshman year of high school. I'm so sorry (*relieved) to inform you that the site is gone and you will not be able to read my free verse teenage angst).
Poema de la Lengua
"Te la bañaste” - wide eyes
“Pinche negro” - blindly and smoothly said.
“Ok, so does it mean…” - correct but unsure
“ahorita lo ago”- now
“Diache, y con jabon!” - low eyes
“not in my room” - slim stare, mountain voice
“hm, but you do know...” - soft eyes, cuddle voice, comfort pose
“ahorita lo ago” - later.
hope stands right with the water
still with no touch, splashed with the pressure
speaks with different voices
the same words of patience.
Miss, miss, I hear
them saying, sometimes in
my dreams, sometimes in
the half sleep after
the alarm goes off and before
I drive to them again.
Meess, meeeeeesss, Omar says -
"Can I help today?" in English when
he's rested but
"Nombre porqueeeeee?!" in Spanish when
sharper but more
I'd like to talk with
Comparing and contrasting? They asked,
What's that ?
(Face palm, two days
before STAAR). Bueno, dije yo -
Think of contrast as contra, and comparing as
tu compadre - and a lightbulb went off,
illuminating two worlds.
Thank you, Miss, round-faced Nahomi says
on the way out the door. Thank you,
Miss Parker, Nickolas says, and when
come out crisp I think how
my name is unusual
here. My name is
unusual and my tongue is
unusual, capable of 2 and 3 worlds despite my
skin but too soft, still, too polite. I've
untamed and unteased it, tried to
toughen my tone and tighten my words.
They listen; I laugh; but still I
freely when I can speak my age, let long words
and swear words spill and
roll across a dinner table,
There must be a middle ground, a
frontera where I speak to children like
grownups and give them
the words they need, in
both tongues, for