Last year for NPM, I profiled the state poets laureate. This year, I'm keeping it close to home -- featuring a different Maryland poet every day.
Ann Bracken is a poet and a special education teacher. She has been writing a series of portrait poems, character sketches of the teens she works with in a self-contained classroom.
Liam Sits Folded
by Ann Bracken
Liam sits folded on the floor
outside my classroom,
his six-foot frame crumpled
like a discarded origami bird.
Liam waits next to the lockers,
head back, mouth open, eyes closed
with his backpack propping him up.
Everyday he wears too-short pants,
shirts faded and full of holes,
and white, threadbare socks.
Liam’s glasses, thick and brown,
help him make sense of what he reads,
but cannot provide the necessary clues
to help decipher a grin from a grimace.
Without words of explanation,
Liam sees threats
instead of invitations.
“I can’t do this,” he tells me
over and over again, stabbing
the erase-end of a yellow lead pencil
into his arm.
When I reach my hand out to stop him,
Liam smiles in relief.
“I really don’t want to hurt myself,” he tells me.
“I just get so frustrated,”
and the stabbing starts again.
Liam sits folded at his desk
feet tucked up under him,
backpack ever strapped
and sagging on his back.
Folded into his world of contradictions are
piles of papers
with words running together
like melting crayons.
Yet when he draws a cartoon figure
I instantly recognize it as
Mama from A Raisin in the Sun.
“You see, the plant in the picture stands for hope,”
Liam tells me.
“To everyone else, it is a worthless, scraggly stalk with leaves.
To Mama, it’s a rich, red geranium.”
Posted with permission of the author.
You can read more of Ann's work at the online journal Praxilla, and see a video of her reading her poem, "Wine and Water" at a Little Patuxent Review launch.
HS Writing Prompt
One of Ann Bracken's favorite sayings is: you could love anyone if you knew their story.
Write about the moment when you learned something surprising about an acquaintance or classmate, something that shifted your view of that person. Try to use at least one line of dialogue.
Use "Liam Sits Folded" as a companion to Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin in the Sun. Which character in the play does Liam most resemble?
Our Poetry Friday host today is Madigan Reads. Stop by to check out other poetry bloggers' National Poetry Month projects.