I Will Stay Home

For the babies and the children
For the parents, and siblings, and aunts, and uncles

For the hospital workers
For the recently operated and the soon-to-be operated
For the at-risk with health concerns we cannot see

For the farmers and drivers and supermarket workers
For the families of the farmers and drivers and supermarket workers

For those who can’t work
For those who are still able to work
For those who have to work

For the grandparents who bring joy and tell stories
For the grandparents who support the children and the grandchildren
For the grandparents who carry the collective memories
And for everyone else

I will stay home

This is not about me and what I want
(I want to go out too)
My parents and grandparents and teachers taught me the dangers of being selfish

Together in community we all do better
It matters

I will stay home
You?

Novel Coronavirus Blues

This is the first draft of Novel Coronavirus Blues.  As a language teacher, writing from Lima, Peru, I find that a bit of creativity can focus the mind.  (Feel free to sing it out following a standard 12-bar blues progression. BTW: That link does not have a bridge.)

Verse 1
We celebrated New Year’s and everything was good
And 2020 started, well, just like it should.
We thought that we’d see clearer in the leap year of the Rat
But the health news of pandemic filled the screens and every chat
While walking in fog, your mind, you think you’ll lose
You’re singing the Novel Coronavirus blues

Chorus
My friend how are you feeling?  How’s the temperature of your head?
When you see gone-viral videos are you filled up with dread?
For the young it’s less of a problem still you worry about that cough
You cover it with your elbow sleeve and watch your friends back off
You’re glad you weren’t in the group, on the flight or a cruise
You’re singing the Novel Coronavirus blues

Bridge
So you went to get more info from the sources that you know
You rounded up statistics and that filled your mind with woe
Finally you said, “Mom and dad, I don’t wanna be misled”
They sat you down and shared their truth
And this is what they said…

Verse 2
So the president’s cancelled classes and Zoom is our new friend
No nurse or bathroom passes, all commutes are at an end
Our reality is virtual, I’ll see you in the cloud
With fits and starts we’ll lurch ‘n’ fall and end up feeling proud
Mindset may be the only thing you can choose
You’re singing the Novel Coronavirus blues

The First Sound is Never the Birds

The first sound is never the birds
Neither the coo of the pigeon in the palm
Nor the call of the scrub blackbird

Trash truck sounds first
Diesel motor idle roar
Breaking bottles
Pre-dawn-end-of-the-route whisper
Of tired haulers
Hoarse

Then
Cars racing
Motorcycles revving
(Car alarms activated)
House alarms
Dog alarms
Fresh bread morning whistles
Ice cream tricycle kazoos
Old Marta shouting, “Ta-ma-le-ta-ma-le-ta-ma-le!”
(The first time I listened late and heard ma-le-ta [suitcase] not tamale)
Emergency sirens
Pounding, drilling, sanding, scraping
Street-vibrating renovations
Eleven million vying

Pause

Coo
        Call
                  Chirp
                          Song
Relax and respond

Never the first, never the last
Yet always the soothe in the din-
Awareness revealing the bird-song

Listen

For the coo of the pigeon in the palm
And the call of the scrub blackbird

.                                        Lima, Peru 2019

‘Twas Almost Vacation

Written for the teachers at my school…

‘Twas almost vacation and throughout the school
While kids were frenetic, the teachers were cool
A few students traveled but most were still there
To finish December with ganas and flair.

Assessments completed and conferences done
This last week of learning was different, was fun
ManageBac housed all the comments, each grade
The teachers drank coffee. The children?  They played-

They argued at 4-square, though no one was mean;
They gossiped of summer- The beach! What a scene!
They played (it was recess), they hadn’t a care.
They knew their escuela would always be there

Then one of the students she noticed the time
The teachers were missing, the bell didn’t chime.
The counselors, Katie and Rox, disappeared
With Sandra and Rosi and Victor.  How weird!

“Should we be worried?”
“Or should we be scared?”
Some started screaming but mostly they stared.
When up on the bridge there arose such a noise
That it grabbed the attention of girls and the boys.

First Flores, and, Dierkes then Reeves and Bené
Ms. Mincha and Uchi, Ms. Wiley, Ms. Lay,
Ms. Delia, Wellner and Page, Hollowáy
Ms. Emily, Fuller, McGlothin and Rae.

They stomped on the bridge and they stomped really loud
The rest of us teachers we joined in the crowd.
We sang for the kids and we danced way up high
They applauded for us then we chanted goodbye-

“The time is 12:20, it’s time for vacation
“Go travel! Go Read!” we sang with elation.
“Your work is now done here we’ve journeyed quite far
“Don’t’ stop and play 4 square, Go get in your car!”

The children all cheered as they said their goodbyes
They raced to their rides a bit older, more wise.
We waved to each bus as they drove out of sight-
Great vacation to all and to all a good night.

Starfish

The dreadful evening news is filled with ills
Her gleaming eyes of planes that never land
The talking heads fill space ‘tween selling pills
And finish with cute puppies in the sand

Analysis is often hard to find
The whys and wherefores hidden in a cloud
But Sunday’s sales will mollify the mind
The deals! They’ll make a killing, feeling proud

Though sometimes there’s a tone that resonates
I take a breath and turn attentive ears
A problem I can tackle for me waits
Solutions not in months but many years

One more starfish thrown into the sea
The journey matters both for them and me

Ask the Question

___Ask the
Question.  Not the
     I got you
Question nor the
     I’m smarter than you
Question.  Ask the
     Tell me who you are today?
Question.  Ask the
     What’s difficult?
     What’s the best, most interesting?
     What’s surprised you?
Question.  Ask the
     Tell me more about…
Question.  Not the judge, jury nor executioner
Question but the
___build community and understanding
Question.

Answers are not lions (but may be thorns).
Answers are doors.

___Share your
Answers.  Then ask another
Question.

Middle School Writing Lab

As we work to systematize the writing work we do in Middle School, we decided to start a new website: Middle School Writing Lab.  It will be a constant work in progress (and it was only started last Thursday so, keep that in mind).  I hope to include in each section:

  • How-To/ Explanation
  • Examples
  • Rubric
  • Word Bank

I am looking for that sweet spot between “formula” and “stream of consciousness.” I want writers to use their personal voice while accomplishing the task at hand.  If you have any amazing resources please send them my way.  Let’s Write!

Fidget Spinner

A broken skateboard on the ground
was days-old trash until I found
some greased ball bearings deep within.
Thought I’d take ‘em for a spin.

I grabbed a vice grip and a pliers
and pulled apart the useless tires.
When I got the needed part
was when my project I could start.

My sister drinks a lot of juice-
her bottle caps I put to use.
In three red caps I placed a dime
and filled with clay to save some time.

The fourth red cap- I had to cut
away the top and leave a rut
around the middle without tearing
the place I’d put the greased ball bearing.

But still my project wasn’t done
I went to get my grandma’s gun
(a gun for glue, so don’t you worry).
I pegged the pieces without hurry.

So now the part I really hate
the glue sets slow so I must wait.
My patience pays off in the end.
Participating in the trend

I rush to show it to a friend.
He laughs and asks what did I spend?
“Designed and built with nothing new!”
He pauses, asks, “Can I …
… build one too?”

Social Currency

She listened carefully, watching his face, watching his lips. When he finished speaking, her eyes looked up and to the left, thinking. Remembering. Nodding.

Her eyes, then, returned to her 61 year old son. “So your patient wants you to travel with him to Houston,” she paraphrased. “That’s wonderful! He must respect you and trust you… and have a lot of money!”

“Mamá, he wants someone to accompany him and yes, he trusts me. I worked with him and his wife when she was sick. But we can’t do the type of surgery that he needs.”

“I see.” She paused again.

“Impressive.” She nodded again.

“How much will you charge?” she asked, looking him right in the eyes.

“Oh mother!   I don’t know. I have never been asked to do something like this before.” He took a sip of coffee.

The answer didn’t matter and she knew he wouldn’t say… but maybe he would. No harm in asking.

The conversation went silent for a bit. Then she turned to me and said, “And you just returned from that overseas training your company sent you to. How did that go? They must think the world of you, sending you off to a training in another country! They wouldn’t send just anyone, now then, would they?” She looked up again, not waiting for an answer.

Then I understood. I could see it in her eyes. This conversation was not about accomplishment or money, per se; this was about social currency. Later in the evening she would go on her evening constitutional to the casino. Some people find community at church or with their neighbors. Some go to a bar where everybody knows your name. She goes to the casino, every night if someone will take her; she can no longer go out alone with that bum leg of hers

Yes, I understood: When she gets to the casino she will slowly find her favorite machine, talking to friends and relatives amid the rings, dings and bings of the one-armed bandits (that mostly worked with the press of a finger). With her cane and her attendant she will stop and talk to everyone she knows, perhaps someone new. What will she say? Not much has happened since yesterday evening. She spent the day with meals, the newspaper and Netflix so what will she add to the conversation?

“How are you tonight?” Someone will ask as she walks the aisles looking for her machine.

Putting her hand on the other’s arm she will take out some of that social currency and say, “I am good. You’ll never guess where my son is going to go…”

By the end of the evening she will have talked to many who passed by to share their stories. She will listen carefully while watching their faces and lips. She will ask questions, thinking, remembering and nodding as they speak. Tomorrow, we will be brought up to date on the members of that community. We will ask questions that she will be sure to get the answers to as the carousel takes another spin.

Which Side?

Beside the freeway bus stop
the boys play soccer
with a piece of trash
(today it’s a tossed-aside
one liter water bottle).

The bigger one kicks off his
shoes, towards his mother
who is selling fruit to the commuters,
because the sneakers’ sole
became unattached
to the hole-y canvas upper
making it hard to beat his brother
at trash soccer.

“Put on your shoes,” sighs mom
as she takes a few cents for a
watermelon slice, all the time knowing
he won’t.

The commuters,
with purses, backpacks and briefcases
(and slices of fruit),
climb the stairs of the pedestrian bridge
that spans the freeway.

Which side will they come down on?