On Being Poor

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I was reading this novel

with my students today,

and this character

was talking about

what it’s like to be poor.

He talks about his sick dog

and how this dog

was his best friend

and how there was no other way

to deal with it

than a two cent bullet.

He says how

this is the worst part

of being poor,

and, right there,

in the middle of class,

I start to cry,

thinking of how so many of them

know exactly what this means,

how I know exactly what it means

to be this poor,

and how sad it is

that anyone must feel this way,

especially children,

those innocent minds,

all new to hurt and tragedy.

And then I wonder

if there is a teacher out there

who still wonders if I am okay,

if I am alive

and if I am still that tragic child

with dirt-smudged cheeks

and cold hands.

Do they know

this is what I think about

when I go to sleep in a house

that is better by far

than any of my childhood homes,

better than their childhood homes?

Do they know I dream of them

and ache for their pain?

No, they probably don’t,

but I do.

 

So I cried in class

when the dog died

because Arnold

and his family

didn’t have enough money

to take him to the vet.

I stopped class

and apologized

and one student got up

and hugged me

and we kept reading.

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Covered

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Ivory,
chocolate,
saffron,
mocha.
It covers our bones,
houses blood,
nerves,
the atoms that design
who we are,
who we become.
It displays our pain
through scars,
creases,
wrinkles,
and blotches.
We etch pictures
into our skin,
images that shout
identity,
memory,
joy,
love.
This organ,
this living piece
of all we are,
advertises our hearts
to the world,
publicizes our individuality.
Skin hides us,
obscures vision
and understanding.
Underneath,
we crouch,
huddle,
fade
from the realities
that blind.
Shaking below
the thin skin
that encases
heart
and blood
and bone
that shows
but also can’t help
but hide.

(Poem previously posted on my other blog under a different name, for those of you who have read this before.)

Memories Made of Ink and Skin

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Photo Credit: birdtattoodesigns.com

Photo Credit: birdtattoodesigns.com

Heated. That’s what my dad was when I came home with my first tattoo.  The ironic thing was that my step-mom had not only taken me to get the tiny turtle permanently emblazoned onto my ankle, but she had also set up the appointment and paid for it too.  To this day, I look at that small Celtic-style turtle and have fond memories of the buzzing pain that marked it into my skin as well as the image of my friend, Richard, and I drawing it during Speech 101 during my freshmen year of college.

Since that first tattoo, I have ventured three more times into that chair to feel that annoying, bee stinging feeling that presses, needles, a rainbow of ink under my skin.  I guess I like nature because all of my tattoos are reminiscent of animals or the outdoors.  I have also drawn every one of my tattoos which is strange since I don’t consider myself an artist of any kind.

My next tattoo was a tiny flower that found a home on the top of my foot.  My best friend, Jessica, and I sat for hours drawing pictures of figures, images that we might consider inking on our bodies.  We ended up with a flower I drew that contained our initials.  People say it looks like a golf flag with its tiny leaf sticking off the side, but I just think of a crazy night with my friend and the excitement of imagining a “friends forever” scenario.

I have a butterfly on my back between my shoulder blades.  It’s not a traditional butterfly–more like a tribal/Celtic style.  It’s purple and I remember going back to complain that the artist hadn’t added enough color.  He added more a week later, and I can say that it hurt more the second time. I can’t see it, so sometimes I forget it exists, that is until one of my students notices it and says some smart ass remark.  Teenagers for you.  Since most of my students have tattoos, you would think it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but it is.

My last tattoo is a memorial, but not to someone who has died or to someone who has left me.  I have ocean waves in the center of the sun inked on my calf.  My first year of teaching was at a temporary position on the coast.  I’ve never wanted to live anywhere but near the ocean, so it felt like kismet to find my first job and house only a few miles from the crashing waves.  Sadly, I only spent one year teaching those fantastic kids, but I wanted to remember them, to remember the lessons I learned during that year and with those students.  One of my favorite students said to me on the last day, “Don’t cry. You shall be remembered.” This was what I wanted–for my students to not just remember me but to remember the impact I had on their lives, to remember that they are special and unique and powerful.  Those last four words surround my sun–You shall be remembered.

This winter, I will tattoo three little birds on my shoulder.  They will be flying away–flying into the sky of whatever comes their way.

 

Written in response to the Daily Prompt–Tattoo

The Five Sides of a Student

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Photo Credit: deviantart.com

Photo Credit: deviantart.com

 

The Overachiever

Study, study, read.

Eyes become sandpaper orbs.

Only A’s will do.  

The Underachiever

I’ll try if I must,

But I will sleep if I can.

As long as I pass.

The Lonely One

Sitting alone now,

and every day. Perhaps a

friendship in college?  

The Bullied One

Crying in the stall.

They laugh and tease and gouge small

holes in my armor.

The Bully

Mean jokes and small barbs

make my own pain disappear.

I’m sorry…I’m scarred.

Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge–5 Haikus

Swords and Flames

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Photo Credit: nikst.deviantart.com

Photo Credit: nikst.deviantart.com

Rusty chains

encircled the dilapidated gate.

He could see the slow

rise just beyond

the worn wooden fence.

Thick air

sat, heavy, on the dead grass.

His eyes met

the tree line,

standing tall,

soldiers at attention,

marching into foggy battle.

Over the hill,

fires burned to the sky,

tendrils of smoke

twisting through the trees,

suffocating life

in its fiery fist.

A runner arrived,

clothes tattered from

the journey,

bearing a message

from the high command.

All was not yet lost.

With downcast eyes,

he read–

the six nations were headed

up from the south.

The soldier looked

towards the horizon,

waiting,

anticipating the imminent destruction

of his loyal brothers,

those men he had battled with,

who he sought to aid

in his quest for glory.

If they could hold out

for one more night,

their cargo would

be safe.

But the dawn

was a millennia away,

and he could see them

cresting the final hill,

only a few short miles

from the gate,

the rusty chain,

the dead and burning grass.

He could see the

firelight glinting off

their steely swords.

Snow clouds

banked the top of the ridge,

a backdrop for devastation.

The frigid air mixed

with the heat from

the flames that crept

closer and closer

to the battlefield.

The sky poured

a mix of icy mud

down the hill,

instantly freezing

to the horses’ feet,

the soldiers’ boots.

The battle was upon him.

He swung his sword,

slicing through

bone and flesh,

and he prayed to

survive the night.

 

Written in tandem with TheClocktowerSunset.

Rain at Sunset

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Photo Credit: vandevertranch.org

Photo Credit: vandevertranch.org

My favorite part of the day

is when the sun

dips behind the mountains.

As the golden turns

to purple,

that is my favorite

moment.

The deep lavender

sets over the horizon

and paints pink

splashes in the sky.

The five minutes

after the sun sets–

that is the best time.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Rain splatters

the rooftops,

the pavement,

the trees–

this drenched,

soggy

sky reminds me of

home.

Of the bright green

trees

and the scent of pine

drifting between the

raindrops.

~~~~~~~~~~~

The sunset

and the rain–

if only we could

mingle their

beauties together,

perhaps we

could create the

perfect day.

Can’t Give Up

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Photo Credit: flickr.com

Photo Credit: flickr.com

We can’t help them all,

but why shouldn’t we try?

I watch their faces

fill with joy

from a kind word said

or a line of

encouragement.

Hidden behind

masks of dirt,

of poverty,

of pain,

of neglect,

their lights shine

stronger than

a thousand candles

meant to bless them.

Underneath

adult words,

harsh criticisms,

disbelief in themselves,

lies a force

more powerful than

the  sadness surrounding

them.

What we say matters

more than we realize.

We are their guides

and we can’t stop

believing in their

amazing ability

to go on,

to adapt,

to grow.

What we say matters.

They need to know how

amazing they are,

how they have the

ability to change

the universe,

to be what no one

thought they could be.

If we give up,

so will they.