SummerTime, and the Livin’ is… .

by lisa st john

I have a few “teacher” poems that rarely see the light of day because they either sound pathetic or didactic. They are often just plain bad because they are rants. Just rants. Then and again, on days like this, they can come out and dress up and play poem.

“I Get Summers Off”

for Taylor Mali

Come Monday afternoon when I am driving home and can’t tell the difference between the salt and sweat of my tears–

’cause I heard 11th grade Aliya saying she wants a good job so she can support her (yet to be conceived) children when Jordy (inevitably) lands back in jail…

’cause I saw Sammy kick the office door when he got suspended for a fight he really had

with his father

in the form of a friend’s face…

I remember them saying, “You get summers OFF?!”

And this Thursday I hear Michael Stipe on the radio singing, “Everybody Hurts” and I am BACK in TIME at 12th grader Damon’s funeral (the principal forcing me toward the casket of my [ex?] student who blew his brains out in his mother’s bedroom between 9:00 and 10:00 AM on a desert spring day).

I mark the time because the coroner told me. I mark the time because that means he was already dead when I called him at 10:15 to ask why he wasn’t in school. I mark the time because BOOM!

I get summers off.

And bettyandisabel come dancing from hop-scotch and jump-rope and it’s spring and…oh no. This isn’t that poem.

And the dreams escaping through broken-windowed houses that should be homes call to me in sonorous serenades in the form of children’s writing. And the cries for help—for at least attention—TIME attention TIME attention

ATTENTION! “Time?”

call to me in serendipitous notes “accidentally” left on my desk and bruises “hidden” without sleeves but

It’s okay. It’s all okay. ’cause it’s a job and I

get summers off.

But wait. Sometimes a Wednesday comes sneakin’ inside a hushed, timid space between a “fill in the blank here” meeting and a “fill in a bigger blank here” paperwork mound and I hear the gentle rustle of a postcard from Kayla who wants me to know I made her first year at college easier because of “all that damned writing.” I sniff the email of Marianne who typed me up “just” to say that if it weren’t for my class she never would have graduated, and she is thinking of me now. I dance inside the hug of Jose who has come back to tell me that he got his GED after all and that he remembers the “fill in the blank” (attention TIME attention TIME attention, TIME?) when he was homeless trying out high school helped him make it. And (not so) little Larry from my ninth grade “remedial” class comes knockin’ on my office door to say he is enrolled in AP English next year ’cause I helped him to dispel his fear and I think…

I get summers off?

 

I told you they were bad. This one was written a few years ago and meant to be a performance poem so here  is the audio before I decide to make it go back on the shelf marked, “Rants–not poems.”

Disclaimer: All of this didn’t always happen and none of this isn’t sometimes all the way true-ish. And yes, the names have been changed to protect the writer (obviously).

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