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Poetry for School Days

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As the new school year begins, we settle into a time when life changes for us in so many ways. Our school experiences shape and form us, and we come to discover ourselves in new ways each day. The following are some poems, written about just some of the many experiences related to our school days.

"A Book"

by Adelaide Love

A book, I think, is very like
A little golden door
That takes me into places
Where I've never been before.

It leads me into fairyland
Or countries strange and far
And, best of all, the golden door
Always stands ajar.

"All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten"

by Robert Fulghum

Most of what I really need
To know about how to live
And what to do and how to be
I learned in kindergarten.
Wisdom was not at the top
Of the graduate school mountain,
But there in the sandpile at Sunday school.

These are the things I learned:

Share everything.
Play fair.
Don't hit PEOPLE.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Flush.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life -
Learn some and think some
And draw and PAINT AND sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world,
Watch out for traffic,
Hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

Time Machine

by Vince Suzadail, Jr.

Ride with me on my time machine to a different time and place
Return with me and let me see if I can put a smile upon your face
To the days of AM radio and the TV was black and white
To lying in a grassy field and counting stars at night
Popcorn and soda in the balcony at a Saturday matinee
Parades led by the High School Band on Decoration Day
Dressing up and going door to door on the night of Halloween
Cigarettes rolled in your shirt, pretending to be James Dean
Pep rallies before the football games, everybody stand and cheer
Going in the woods with your friends at night, sharing a quart of beer
That feeling inside, turning red, when she smiled at you at the dance
Wanting to kiss her goodnight, but you were afraid to take a chance
Playing chase tag at night in the neighborhood, hiding behind a tree
Holding hands with your first steady, so all your friends could see
Medicine SHOW at the end of town in a giant canvas tent
Saving pennies for a rainy day, fasting on candy for Lent
Going for a Sunday ride with Mom and Dad in the family car
Playing in the yard at night, putting lightning bugs in a jar
Drag racing on that long stretch of road, Chevy was hard to beat
Stealing peaches from a neighbor’s tree, always seemed so sweet
Riding bikes all over town, never knowing the meaning of fear
Identifying cars by their tail lights, make and model and year
News and Stooges at the theatre before the movie starts
Valentine’s day I love you written on tiny candy hearts
Easter bonnets and picking flowers for Mom on Mother’s Day
Opening day at the community pool the last weekend in May
Sock hop in the auditorium, collar up, trying to play it cool
Meeting friends at the usual place, everyday after school
Six for a quarter on the juke box, music that would move your soul
Return with me now to those glory days and the birth of rock and roll.

Lines

Martha Collins

Draw a line. Write a line. There.
Stay in line, hold the line, a glance
between the lines is fine but don't
turn corners, cross, cut in, go over
or out, between two points of no
return's a line of flight, between
two points of view's a line of vision.
But a line of thought is rarely
straight, an open line's no party
line, however fine your point.
A line of fire communicates, but drop
your weapons and drop your line,
consider the shortest distance from x
to y, let x be me, let y be you.

Numbers

Mary Cornish

I like the generosity of numbers.
The way, for example,
they are willing to count
anything or anyone:
two pickles, one door to the room,
eight dancers dressed as swans.

I like the domesticity of addition--
add two cups of milk and stir--
the sense of plenty: six plums
on the ground, three more
falling from the tree.

And multiplication's school
of fish times fish,
whose silver bodies breed
beneath the shadow
of a boat.

Even subtraction is never loss,
just addition somewhere else:
five sparrows take away two,
the two in someone else's
garden now.

There's an amplitude to long division,
as it opens Chinese take-out
box by paper box,
inside every folded cookie
a new fortune.

And I never fail to be surprised
by the gift of an odd remainder,
footloose at the end:
forty-seven divided by eleven equals four,
with three remaining.

Three boys beyond their mothers' call,
two Italians off to the sea,
one sock that isn't anywhere you look.

from Poetry magazine
Volume CLXXVI, Number 3, June 2000

I’ve Been Known

Denise Duhamel

to spread it on thick to shoot off my mouth to get it off my chest
to tell him where
to get off
to stay put to face the music to cut a shine to go under to sell
myself short to play
myself down
to paint the town to fork over to shell out to shoot up to pull a
fast one to go haywire
to take a shine to
to be stuck on to glam it up to vamp it up to get her one better to
eat a little higher
on the hog
to win out to get away with to go to the spot to make a stake to
make a stand to
stand for something to stand up for
to snow under to slip up to go for it to take a stab at it to try out
to go places to play
up to get back at
to size up to stand off to slop over to be solid with to lose my
shirt to get myself off
to get myself off the hook
The Grammar Lesson

Steve Kowit

A noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does.
An adjective is what describes the noun.
In "The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz"

of and with are prepositions. The's
an article, a can's a noun,
a noun's a thing. A verb's the thing it does.

A can can roll - or not. What isn't was
or might be, might meaning not yet known.
"Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz"

is present tense. While words like our and us
are pronouns - i.e. it is moldy, they are icky brown.
A noun's a thing; a verb's the thing it does.

Is is a helping verb. It helps because
filled isn't a full verb. Can's what our owns
in "Our can of beets is filled with purple fuzz."

See? There's almost nothing to it. Just
memorize these rules...or write them down!
A noun's a thing, a verb's the thing it does.
The can of beets is filled with purple fuzz.

The Student Theme

Ronald Wallace

The adjectives all ganged up on the nouns,
insistent, loud, demanding, inexact,
their Latinate constructions flashing. The pronouns
lost their referents: They were dangling, lacked
the stamina to follow the prepositions' lead
in, on, into, to, toward, for, or from.
They were beset by passive voices and dead
metaphors, conjunctions shouting But! or And!

The active verbs were all routinely modified
by adverbs, that endlessly and colorlessly ran
into trouble with the participles sitting
on the margins knitting their brows like gerunds
(dangling was their problem, too). The author
was nowhere to be seen; was off somewhere.

And the last poem, isn’t really about school, but is has a beautiful message. As I prepare, as many grandparents are, to return to my childhood neighborhood for a reunions with old friends and school mates, what stands out most to me are people and how they used their words, energy, and talents. We can change our lives and the lives of other people with our words. We can build up or tear down, and we can leave a lasting impression that becomes part of someone’s life, whether we know it or not. And we are affected by the words and actions of others. We have a responsibility to use our gifts with care.

You Never Can Tell

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

You never can tell when you send a word,
Like an arrow shot from a bow
By an archer BLIND, be it cruel or kind,
Just where it may chance to go.
It may pierce the breast of your dearest friend,
Tipped with its poison or balm,
To a stranger’s heart in life’s great mart,
It may carry its pain or its calm.

You never can tell when you do an act
Just what the result will be;
But with every deed you are sowing a seed,
Though the harvest you may not see.
Each kindly act is an acorn dropped
In God’s productive soil
You may not know, but the tree shall grow,
With shelter for those who toil.

You never can tell what your thoughts will do,
In bringing you hate or love;
For thoughts are things, and their airy wings
Are swifter than carrier doves.
They follow the law of the universe –
Each thing must create its kind,
And they speed o’er the track to bring you back
Whatever went out from your mind.

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