April 12, 2016

Friday, April 8, 2011

National Poetry Month Issue 8

Happy Poetry Friday! It's the second Poetry Friday of National Poetry Month 2011.

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.

Lesson Extension
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.


Tabatha said...

Very touching poem with good imagery and fresh word choices. I liked "his six-foot frame crumpled
like a discarded origami bird" in particular. Also, the end.

Thanks for sharing this, Laura!

Anonymous said...

Wow, such an amazing poem. The imagery really sticks with you. I can see this kid, he is that kid that you know you've seen at one time or another, and this poem just brings that to life and breaks you heart. Way to go!

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Oh my. I'm looking even more forward to meeting Ann somewhere now. I knew we were going somewhere interesting just from the title, and then she unfolds him, crumple by crumple, until we know enough of his story to love him right along with her.

Thanks for your comments on both my mjlu post and my lasagna factory! I enjoyed going back to 2010 to read your wonderful Blizzard Soup poem-- "Ground was something to imagine.//Why would he go?" In fact the style of this poem reminds me of Alice Oswald's.

Up early this morning to catch up on NaPoMo reading...and will send you a poem today. Hope ya like it!

Mary Lee said...

Ann Bracken is both my Teacher Hero and Poet Hero. Wow. To know kids so well AND to be able to put it into such a beautiful poem...

Author Amok said...

Thanks, all. Ann is -- as you can see -- a teacher whose ability to pay attention is a gift both to students and to readers.