A night of art and poems

Another wonderful night at the Wickford Art Association. The event was packed and they even stayed until the last poem was read. Thank you for all the work the team does to pull this night off. Mark Richard was the artist who interpreted my poem into an oil painting. The poem selected and that I read was “Roommates, 1978.”

Come join us if you live nearby!

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To my tomato stealer

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One more day, I said yesterday.
Tomorrow I will proudly pick two perfect tomatoes,
the largest my 10×10 garden has produced
during my first year in this community space,
surrounded by people who give advice,
water my vines while I’m away
and remind me to lock the gate.

Today, I walked past wild vines
taking over Connecticut soil and stopped short.
My two perfect tomatoes were gone.
The space they occupied yesterday
stripped clean as if they never existed.
A thief had bent over my chicken wire fence
and plucked my perfect pleasure.

I blamed myself for not picking them earlier.
Those huge red orbs taunted anyone who came near.
Maybe they thought I was away, that the fruit would rot,
Maybe it was a stranger who jumped the fence.
Maybe it was simply someone who had bacon and lettuce,
but no sun-ripened, summer-kissed Big Boys.
I forgive you, I said. Enjoy.

Back in school 20 years ago

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I interviewed for a substitute teacher position at the high school in Groton on Friday. It’s been over 12 years since I left my last full-time teaching position, so I had to dig through my files to pull together a binder of recommendations and college transcripts to bring with me to the interview.

While looking through the files, I read some recommendations I’d received from mentor teachers and college professors. Behind these official letters, I had tucked a note from Nick (no last name). After wondering why I kept it, I realized with a start that I might have saved this short note because it was from one of my three students who died in a tragic boating accident — in early July 1998, 20 years ago.

I remember those last days of school when my three sections of junior English took their final and headed off to the summer before their senior year. But less than ten days later, three of them — Greg, Eric and Nick — were gone. The boys drowned after the canoe they were fishing in broke apart on the reservoir near the school in Seekonk, Massachusetts. It would be days before their bodies were found while dragging the swollen water. Their heart-broken friends and family posted themselves along the shoreline. Flowers overflowed from the bridge.

At the end of every school year, I asked my students to write letters to someone on the school faculty who they wanted to thank for whatever reason. Nick must have written me (maybe because he still had some outstanding assignments that he needed to turn in). Despite his lukewarm feelings about English, Nick was a funny kid who was everyone’s friend, and I enjoyed him and the others in that class.

Seekonk is a small community, and it was a gut-wrenching time for the town, who watched the three boys grow up. Even though school was out for the summer, counselors were there to support students who streamed in to share their grief. It was like a big family. Nick’s mom was a teacher at the school. Eric’s family was well known, and Greg’s family lived on the same street as the high school.

I’ll never forget the memorial program held on the high school football field later that summer. Friends sang, the teachers sat together on the field, doves were let go, and Nick’s mother spoke for the boys’ families. She shared stories about her funny, opinionated son; Eric, the sensitive artist; and Greg, the quiet one with big blue eyes. I cried as she read from Nick’s autobiography project that she found in his room just that morning. I can’t remember what she read, but they were Nick’s words and she cherished them all the more.

As I prepare to substitute in another high school in another state two decades later, I am thankful for this reminder of the strength and importance of school community, how the students and faculty leaned on each other, how the class held on to their memories of the boys all throughout their senior year, how the yearbook was dedicated to them, how the G.E.N. Memorial 5K Run/Walk continued to bring the town together, how words made a difference.

How we wore thin silver bracelets with three clear beads all the next school year.

And how the bracelet is still in my jewelry box.

 

 

The Bitter

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Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

The Bitter
(Noun ) An angry, resentful old woman.
— Urban Dictionary

This is how we taste the world —
sour, salty, sweet, savory
and bitter.

I am done tasting bitter.

Take the bitter with the sweet.
A bitter pill to swallow.
Bitter fruits.
To the bitter end.

Studies show  bitterness
is the most sensitive taste of all.
Dark chocolate.
Black coffee.
Spinach, kale, escarole.
Swallowed anger.
Silence.

I am done tasting bitter.

Cleaning out the extra closet

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Four pair of heels in four colors.
Never-worn spangly dress.
High school yearbooks from 1994 to 2006.
Small cardboard box filled with baby teeth wadded in tissue.
Red high school French Club sweatshirt.
Forum magazines from 1995.
Ticket stub to Crosby, Stills and Nash concert in Providence.
Macramé handbag with 49 cents and dried-up gummy bears.
Christmas gift boxes of never-worn, too-big underwear.
Dad’s U.S. Navy sailor uniform from 1945.
Framed news article from a daily newspaper in New Jersey.
Wedding gown bought in downtown Des Moines.
Plastic bin of report cards and projects.
Bathing suit cover-up worn once in Key West.
Plastic bags from the old Anne & Hope on Route 6.
Bent wire hangers from dry cleaners that opened in the closed Friendly’s on Pawtucket Ave.
Random photos of high school girls in prom dresses.
A box of frozen-faced porcelain dolls, soccer trophies and a signed team baseball.
Grandma’s cotton tablecloth printed with cherries.
A button, glitter, dust, hair.
One lone white sock.