Archives for posts with tag: school

casha17
Will you?
by Salena Casha

It was a chant
A quick one-two beat
My tongue thick with nerves
So wired i could feel every
Postule writhing in a language
i didn’t know.

The notecard: tucked into my pocket
edges pinching my fingers
speaking to me in my own tongue
even though i was fluent in his
within my head.

It didn’t matter, the answer, nein.
No, danke. Thank you.
I trained myself for this,
practiced the way he’d say it
blond curls lit up and burning my
insides.

The air smelled of baked asphalt,
curried pollen, boy sweat.
He walked ahead, his converse
soles slapping away from me
and i stepped in his shoes. Keeping up
but behind.

I don’t know if i said his name but he turned to me
and my hands shook even though it was my tongue
that would do the talking and someone whispered

“Willst du mit mir zum Prom gehen?“

He frowned. No nein. No no. Just a blank stare
As i shuffled for the card and offered it to him,
my handwriting smudged, my fingerprints stained
and smeared on the blue lines.

He looked at me and smiled, wide and bright,
and I stared into him, a transfixed star
even as my face burnt red in the sun.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Friends are the best sort of dates to proms (6/8/2009).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Some people say kids are resilient, but at 17 you feel fragile. Like a word could splinter a sliver of you, an important puzzle piece, especially if it’s a “no.” But still, somehow, the romantics of that age prevail. Or at least they did for me when I asked a German exchange student to prom my senior year of high school. Embarrassing? Yes. Successful? I don’t have any prom photos to prove it. However, that moment when I offered him my heart on an index card is one of the most formative moments in the year of Salena Casha: teen nerd.

casha

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Salena Casha‘s work has appeared in over 30 publications. She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her story “Il Sale Della Terra,” which appeared in the fall issue of Mulberry Fork Review and her flash fiction piece was selected by Roxane Gay for the Top (Very) Short Stories of 2015. She was a finalist for the 2013-2014 Boston Public Library’s Children’s Writer-in-Residence and a 2011 Bread Loaf Scholarship Recipient in Fiction. Her first three picture books are housed under the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt umbrella. Follow her on twitter @salaylay_c.

mankerian-17ish
I Didn’t Want Mama to Kiss Me Anymore
by Shahé Mankerian

Every morning, she drove me to school
in Father’s Chevrolet. The radio spewed static.

She parked crooked by the curb and allowed
the engine to idle so it won’t die. The heavy

metal clique against the no parking wall
smoked cigarettes. Mama with her maroon

lipstick reached over and kissed me
underneath the twisted sycamore. I rubbed

my face and prayed Syliva, the girl I loved
since seventh grade, never saw this. Once,

during English period, Mrs. Reyna, read
my poem to the class: When you turn

seventeen, cram Mama in a box, duct tape
the lids quickly, so she’ll never come out.

PHOTO: The author at 17.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wanted to recreate the classic Freudian mother-and-son tension in the poem. If Sophocles claimed, “Sons are the anchors of a mother’s life,” then I wanted to break the chain that linked them together. High school years are the perfect catalyst for such breakups. Overnight, boys discover girls, and mothers come face-to-face with their dreaded kryptonite.

mankerian-49ish

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shahé Mankerian is the principal of St. Gregory Alfred and Marguerite Hovsepian School in Pasadena, California, and the co-director of the Los Angeles Writing Project. As an educator, he has been honored with the Los Angeles Music Center’s BRAVO Award, which recognizes teachers for innovation and excellence in arts education. His most recent manuscript, History of Forgetfulness, has been a finalist at four prestigious competitions: the 2013 Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition, the 2013 Bibby First Book Competition, the Quercus Review Press, Fall Poetry Book Award, 2013, and the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize. His poems have been published in numerous literary magazines.

Image

MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

by Sam Shepard

I remember trying to imitate Burt Lancaster’s smile after I saw him and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz. For days, I practiced in the backyard. Weaving through the tomato plants. Sneering. Grinning that grin. Sliding my upper lip up over my teeth. After a few days of practice, I tried it out on the girls at school. They didn’t seem to notice. I broadened my interpretation until I started getting strange reactions from the other kids. They would look straight at my teeth and a fear would creep into their eyes. I’d forgotten how bad my teeth were. How one of the front ones was dead and brown and overlapped the broken one right next to it. I’d actually come to believe I was in possession of a full head of perfectly pearly Burt Lancaster-type of teeth. I didn’t want to scare anyone so I stopped grinning after that. I only did it in private…

Photo: Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954)

Image
A CERTAIN SWIRL
Poem by Mary Ruefle

The classroom was dark, all the desks were empty, 

and the sentence on the board was frightened to 

find itself alone. The sentence wanted someone to 

read it, the sentence thought it was a fine sentence, a 

noble, thorough sentence, perhaps a sentence of 

some importance, made of chalk dust, yes, but a sen-
tence that contained within itself a certain swirl
not 
unlike the nebulous heart of the unknown universe, 

but if no one read it, how could it be sure? Perhaps it 

was a dull sentence and that was why everyone had 

left the room and turned out the lights. Night came, 

and the moon with it. The sentence sat on the board
and shone. It was beautiful to look at, but no one 

read it.
***
“A Certain Swirl” appears in Mary Ruefle‘s collection The Most of It (Wave books, 2008), available at Amazon.com.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Ruefle‘s book Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures, was a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism (Wave Books, 2012), and her Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), won the William Carlos Williams Award. Reufle has published ten other books of poetry, a book of prose (The Most of It, Wave Books, 2008), and a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed!, (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007); she is also an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries, and include the publication of A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, and teaches in the MFA program at Vermont College.

Image
THE FRIENDLY BOOK (Excerpt)
by Margaret Wise Brown

I like dogs
Big dogs
Little dogs
Fat dogs
Doggy dogs
Old dogs
Puppy dogs
I like dogs
A dog that is barking over the hill
A dog that is dreaming very still
A dog that is running wherever he will
I like dogs.

Photo: Artour A, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Image
ON GIRLS LENDING PENS
By Taylor Mali

I walked into the classroom and straight to my chair,
But when I reached for my pen, it just wasn’t there!
I had no pen! or crayon! or pencil!
I was stuck before class without a writing utensil.

I could have asked the teacher (if I had dared,)
But I knew she would have said, “You’re unprepared!”
So to be diplomatic and avoid the fight
I quickly turned to the girl on my right,

Do you possibly have a pen I could borrow?
I’ll use it today and have it back by tomorrow.
“Oh! Furshur! What kind? I’ve got plenty.”
And she turned around with a handful of twenty.

I really don’t care what color or style,
I’ll take the fountain pen, I said with a smile.
“Oh, you don’t want that one. It comes out all ugly.
And it’s made of pure gold,” she said to me smugly.

Then how bout the blue?
“No, that one hops.”
Okay, maybe the green?
“Comes out in glops.”
Black?
“I’m afraid it’s having trouble connecting.”
Red?
“I’ll need it if we do any in-class correcting.”
Look, I said, my voice filling with fear,
Just gimme a pen before the teacher gets here!

“But this one always comes out in tons,
The yellow one skips and the purple one runs.
When the brown one dries, it looks real icky,
And the orange one’s covered with something sticky.
This one’s for emergencies (in case I get confused)
‘cause it’s clean and it’s fresh and it’s never been used.
I keep this one for quizzes ‘cause it brings good luck,
And the ballpoint’s splotchy and the cap is stuck.
This one’s empty, with the silver band,
And the felt-tip will leak all over your hand.
This one’s cracked, and that’s gone berserk!
And that would be perfect but it doesn’t work.
But here! Take this one! This one’s fine!
Oh wait…I’m sorry, this one’s mine.”
I think she went on but I couldn’t have cared.
I decided it was better to go unprepared.

###

Visit poet Taylor Mail at his website taylormali.com. See him read “On Girls Lending Pens” at wikispaces.com.

Photo: My Life as a Bargainista, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Image

A CERTAIN SWIRL

Poem by Mary Ruefle

  The classroom was dark, all the desks were empty, 


and the sentence on the board was frightened to 


find itself alone. The sentence wanted someone to 


read it, the sentence thought it was a fine sentence, a 


noble, thorough sentence, perhaps a sentence of 


some importance, made of chalk dust, yes, but a sen-

tence that contained within itself a certain swirl

not 
unlike the nebulous heart of the unknown universe, 


but if no one read it, how could it be sure? Perhaps it 


was a dull sentence and that was why everyone had 


left the room and turned out the lights. Night came, 


and the moon with it. The sentence sat on the board

and shone. It was beautiful to look at, but no one 


read it.

“A Certain Swirl” is found in Mary Ruefle‘s collection The Most of It (Wave books, 2008), available at Amazon.com.

Image

THE FRIENDLY BOOK (Excerpt)

by Margaret Wise Brown

I like dogs
Big dogs
Little dogs
Fat dogs
Doggy dogs
Old dogs
Puppy dogs
I like dogs
A dog that is barking over the hill
A dog that is dreaming very still
A dog that is running wherever he will
I like dogs.

Photo: Artour A, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Image

MOTEL CHRONICLES (Excerpt)

by Sam Shepard

I remember trying to imitate Burt Lancaster’s smile after I saw him and Gary Cooper in Vera Cruz. For days, I practiced in the backyard. Weaving through the tomato plants. Sneering. Grinning that grin. Sliding my upper lip up over my teeth. After a few days of practice, I tried it out on the girls at school. They didn’t seem to notice. I broadened my interpretation until I started getting strange reactions from the other kids. They would look straight at my teeth and a fear would creep into their eyes. I’d forgotten how bad my teeth were. How one of the front ones was dead and brown and overlapped the broken one right next to it. I’d actually come to believe I was in possession of a full head of perfectly pearly Burt Lancaster-type of teeth. I didn’t want to scare anyone so I stopped grinning after that. I only did it in private…

Photo: Burt Lancaster as Joe Erin in Vera Cruz (1954)

Image

In a Paris Review interview conducted by George Plimpton, novelist E.L. Doctorow discusses some of his writing challenges — including trying to write an absence note for his grammar-school-aged daughter. I loved the humor here!

INTERVIEWER: You once told me that the most difficult thing for a writer to write was a simple household note to someone coming to collect the laundry, or instructions to a cook.

E. L. DOCTOROW: What I was thinking of was a note I had to write to the teacher when one of my children missed a day of school. It was my daughter, Caroline, who was then in the second or third grade. I was having my breakfast one morning when she appeared with her lunch box, her rain slicker, and everything, and she said, “I need an absence note for the teacher and the bus is coming in a few minutes.” She gave me a pad and a pencil; even as a child she was very thoughtful. So I wrote down the date and I started, Dear Mrs. So-and-so, my daughter Caroline . . . and then I thought, No, that’s not right, obviously it’s my daughter Caroline. I tore that sheet off, and started again. Yesterday, my child . . . No, that wasn’t right either. Too much like a deposition. This went on until I heard a horn blowing outside. The child was in a state of panic. There was a pile of crumpled pages on the floor, and my wife was saying, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe this.” She took the pad and pencil and dashed something off. I had been trying to write the perfect absence note. It was a very illuminating experience. Writing is immensely difficult. The short forms especially.

INTERVIEWER: How much tinkering do you actually do when you get down to nonhousehold work—a novel, say?

DOCTOROW: I don’t think anything I’ve written has been done in under six or eight drafts. Usually it takes me a few years to write a book. World’s Fair was an exception. It seemed to be a particularly fluent book as it came. I did it in seven months. I think what happened in that case is that God gave me a bonus book.

Photo: Skobrik, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED