It happened one day when I was in my final year at school.
Our teacher suddenly announced that we had a very special visitor
She came into our classroom, looking serious.
She said she wanted to tell us something very important
It was a matter of life and death.
I was intrigued.
You see, of all my many ambitions, there was one which stood out.
I WANTED TO BE AN ASTRONAUT.
She then handed out some leaflets.
They were about the Space Shuttle
And, specifically, they were about how to stay safe on board it
During our next flight.
Then she started her talk.
It was technical.
All about procedures, potential malfunctions, plugs, sockets and docking manoeuvres.
I was confused.
What the hell did any of this have to do with us?
I mean, we were just kids.
And definitely NOT astronauts.
But that wasn't the extraordinary thing.
No, what really amazed me was that none of my classmates seemed surprised by this
In fact, they were all busily taking notes.
And then, with concerned looks on their faces, they started to ask her questions.
Sensible, detailed questions.
Not the sort of questions which you would expect teenagers to ask.
Questions which you would only expect
From a room full of astronauts.
How had this happened?
These were my friends.
I thought I knew them.
And yet, in the space of a few minutes, I had discovered that I was the only one in that class
Who wasn't a fully trained astronaut.
I felt jealous.
And I felt like I was the odd one out.
I admit it.
She wasn't from NASA.
She was from a sexual health clinic.
And the talk wasn't about the Space Shuttle.
It was about AIDS.
That terrible new disease which everyone was talking about.
She had come to our school to try and advise us about how to stay safe
The next time we had sex.
But, at that precise moment in my life,
She might as well have been talking about EVAs
Rather than STDs.
Because it seemed to me that I was more likely to go into space
Than to ever find
And I was still jealous of my friends.
When it dawned on me that I was the only one in the class
Who wasn't having fun
Being a teenager.
But, that was a long time ago.
And, in the end,
I did find love
And it's out of this world.
High school life makes me quite weary, history can be quite dreary,
More than once the class has given me a cause to snore,
While I sat there, fingers drumming, some modern tune I started humming,
I didn’t see the teacher coming, coming in the classroom door.
Normally, she was quite cheerful, humming from the classroom door,
But today she gave a roar.
All the class sat still and silent, knowing that she could turn violent,
And all fearing lasting indent that she could leave upon their head.
All that time I watched with worry; - wishing I had thought to scurry
Out the door in fit and flurry - flurry from the pending dread -
From the sure and ceaseless source of impending dread -
I hid ‘neath my desk instead.
And the roaring, raving, ranting teacher started in on chanting;
Save me - brave me couldn't handle this kind of class;
Now I sat there, my mind wandering, all my thoughts were set on squandering
All she spoke, my brain was pondering, my attention couldn’t last -
As she spoke my brain was pondering and my attention couldn’t last -
I could never hope to pass.
All around me kids were shaking, but no move toward freedom making,
I began to wonder if they had a clue what was in store;
Maybe they had heard her coming, while I had been busy humming,
Fingers on the desk were drumming, drumming so I wouldn’t snore
Maybe they had had a warning - of whatever was in store; -
I hoped that she wouldn’t roar.
Sitting there in constant terror, worried I would make some error,
And thus bring about her wrath upon my mortal head;
But she made no move to strike me, showed no sign she planned to spite me
I doubted that she’d think to bite me, maybe growl at me instead?
This thought made me shiver slightly, i’d rather her roar instead -
At least I could keep my head.
She began to motion towards me, I knew it wasn’t to award me,
Perhaps she had noticed that i wasn’t wide awake?
Either way, She’d given order, so i began my journey toward her
Maybe some day I’d adore her? How many classes would it take?
How much of her pitiless lecturing would it take?
My own life was now at stake.
Now that I had done her bidding, she was at her desk, just sitting,
Watching me with those eyes and her never blinking stare;
Never once her gaze shifted, the corners of her mouth weren’t lifted
It was as if a sense of humor had never been formed there -
As if her face had never shown the signs of laughter there -
I pretended to not care.
All the while, my thoughts racing, I was at her mercy, pacing,
The room of classmates I was facing, but they had begun to snore;
i thought she was a fluke in staffing, until i heard her laughing
Now her sullen, cold, and serious mood I had no reason to deplore -
Those heartless hoards of homework were no reason to deplore -
I was scared of her no more!
nora stretches her arms like flowers
she is a tiny fighter
who grew from dry dirt
she has been hurt by men
who said they would protect her green stem
and then cracked her open
when they ripped her from the ground
she took her wounds with pluck
and let her sap guts bleed transient
liquid interiors never tasted so tranquil
nora doesn’t seem like the type
who cuts tick marks along the lines
of her floral spine
out of self pity
but maybe out of fury
she is a tiger lily
freckled cheeks and hair like
she is obstinate
to make progress
nora wants to kill her sickness
she still has a dark scar on her shoulder
from the day she tumbled down the stairs
would have died at his hands
if her shoulder didn’t get caught
between the railing balusters
after being almost killed by a man
who tried to crack her open
like so many beer bottle caps
nora collapsed in the quiet desperation
of what he had left of her family
screaming pity the fool
who ever taught me
to love the devil
and call him a father
she wants to escape the laughter
of her classmates
pigeon holed in a tiny body
nora wants to escape her life
too often for repose
she wants to close the door
and hide huddled in the bath tub
waiting for the storm to pass
but she has not met many calm eyes
and she cannot seem to escape the storms
that pass through her like a spring in tornado alley
some days nora feels like dorothy
and she wears her red shoe escape plan
in the blood tick marks she leaves
on her arms and legs
each knife and razor blade
she uses to hack herself apart
reminds her there are other ways to crush pain
and she begins to realize
she can't run and hide but
she can fight
nora does not beg for mercy
every day she takes another step
down the yellow brick road
leaving lilies in her wake
crawling up with hope
through every stone
she will not be worth only the
pain she counts in fives
on her skin blushing like burnt red cheeks
she hasn’t slept easy this past year
but she watches the sun rise
with the consolation
of how little she summons tears these days
of each stone she grows over
trampling her fears
with heels like roots curled around boulders
nora will survive tomorrow
understand her worth in the snaking path of flowers
she’ll turn around to stare down at
growing in the wake of her progress
we may extend them
as much as we like
we may shoot them
at our classmates
we may impress
with the shapes
we can contort
but the more
we extend them
the more we
wear them out
and its very possible
that with all of our
stretching and extending
we could render
What’s in a name?
It is what turns heads
It can cause a quiver in your body
Or a smile to curl onto your lips.
A name can be tarnished
It can make you stand out from the crowd
Or join the masses.
It is more than what society deems
A socially acceptable form of
So let me introduce myself:
I used to feel my name in harsh syllables
Rooted in the language of my people’s history.
MAR or MIR meant bitter.
Like having the wrong taste in your mouth
Reminding me of MARor –
Eaten on Passover to remember how burdensome,
Difficult and bitter the Jews’ slavery in Egypt was.
IAM (YAM) – ocean.
Tumultuous, never still.
Always swirling and scaring children out of it.
MIRIAM – my Hebrew name.
I grew into that name resentfully.
I reacted when I was called that by fellow classmates,
For what else could I do?
But time went by
And I began collecting seashells by the seashore.
The ocean became a treasure and my name
Had a new ring to it.
Yet when eighth grade graduation came around I was given the option
Of writing Mariya instead of Miriam.
I was going to high school where I didn’t know anyone.
So no one needed to know my bitter past.
I also learned that a name was not made up of syllables
But of sweet sounds.
Mmm – like the taste of something so delicious your eyes close
And you feel yourself melting.
Aaa – you’ve just finished your meal and on this hot summer day
You find solace in the cool water running down your back in the shower.
Rrr – racing, running, reaching for the sky.
That’s the sound I want my plane to make when I can hold a piece of
Cloud in the palm of my hand and feel its silver lining.
Iii – the sound of “and” in many languages. The sound of something more,
Reminding me that this is not the end.
Ya – the sound of agreement and conclusion. As if that is all I have to say…so yeah.
I remember the jelly bean jar
perched next to the owlish librarian
in my school when I was younger.
One lucky soul would win a prize
for pulling the right number of jelly beans
out of an air still filled with fancy.
I can’t remember who won the prize,
and I can’t remember what the prize was.
But I guess as selfish minds are wont to do,
I remember the act of guessing.
It was a childhood of guessing,
and I wonder if any of those guesses were truly wrong?
When the engine of innocence toils away,
any solution, however fanciful,
can’t be false in a world that finds falsity
in far more veritable places.
I digress back to that jelly bean jar,
packed full of sugar,
and to a young mind,
full of promise.
To a mind such as mine,
a mind akin to my classmates
who shared my sugary desire for that jar,
any guess was as good as the other,
as long as any guess was your own.
We clutched ordinary pencils
scribbled on ordinary paper
with our own extraordinary numbers.
In the basket went these figures most accurate.
Days during the week passed
with those store brand jelly beans
mashed against each other,
childhood memories turned ordinary pages
wrote with ordinary pencils
until that singular, self-sure number
mashed against pages turned against it.
However strong that memory of numerology
in a room full of words is etched in my mind; no trace
of the end of the jellybean contest remains in my ledger.
No trace of the disappointment of losing out
on such a treasure trove of tooth decay.
But I guess this is the way of the mind,
it tends to trace out the positives
while it remains filled with youthful levity,
no weight is imbued in innocent minds,
and so tragedy, loss, and disappointment
float away past untroubled eyes.
But time rolls on and much like the crushed growth
under an ever-rolling stone,
our lives start to fall harder on softened memories.
Our lives harden with our heads,
and those days of living out short-lived fantasies
fade with jelly bean guesses.
So as we mature and feign to seek the truth,
a small part of me keeps a singular page earmarked
for a time when the truth no longer weighs
down the air with half-true deceit, and a mind long
will return to grasp fanciful ideas
out of an air that’s still light enough
to evade our youthful fingertips.
In the mirror, she blinks
And she thinks aloud
"What a weak girl."
In class, she breaks down
Her classmates frown and say
"Such a weak girl."
She felt so abandoned
As she happened to be
"A very weak girl."
I knew that girl
And how at night she would curl up
"As a weak girl."
But she held on
And she grew strong
Until she became..
The strongest girl with no pain.