poetry month and processing the boston marathon bombing

April is national poetry month. I have dabbled in poetry from time to time but have not produced anything that gave me pause. Thankfully, my school honors the month each year by exposing our little community to live poetry readings by local poets. A part of the school for four years, I have come to expect the month littered with poet visitors sharing their conceptual stories of self, community, work, life, etc. with us during our Tuesday Forums. It is actually one of my favorite traditions, as it allows me to be creatively jealous of these individuals’ abilities to weave a tapestry of images with their provocative word choices. It was surprising then to walk into the morning meeting and see a group of seniors on stage and not an acclaimed poet.  The students were introduced as a Senior Elective on “Poetry in the Air.” Curious about their work, I settled into the meeting.  Each student approached the microphone in front of the entire school community and confidently spoke their poem with passion, interest, and earnestness. A few of them were funny including one on raccoons, one comparing a lover to kitchen gadgets and a series of haikus on the importance of Lululemon to the school’s fashion.  Yet, overwhelmingly the poems were focused on the theme of the “world come undone.” In these poems, students wrestled with their complex feelings about security, loss, power, control, violence, pain and suffering. Not expressing typical teenage angst, these poems spoke to the world they find themselves in, a world devastated by terror.

The last student to present was SW. She approached the microphone and nonchalantly stated, “I wrote this last night.”  I was skeptical of the poem following this omission. When, she started it became clear that she wrote this poem last night because she was grappling with and processing as best as anyone could the recent Boston Marathon Bombings. On a typical day, teaching is a challenging and rewarding profession. There is a rythme to an average day and a normal classroom by the time Spring arrives. It is this rythme that creates comfort and community while reviewing, questioning, and crafting understanding on the various topics discussed. Yet, after an event such as the Boston Marathon bombings and the ensuing manhunt and capture being a teacher is tough. Aren’t I suppose to have the answers?  When asked: What year was the constitution signed? How did the Khmer Rouge come to power? Why did the United States overthrow Mossadegh of Iran? I can answer these questions. I have the primary sources, quotes, stats, maps, videos, and knowledge to tackle these inquiries.  But, why did Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother attack the city of Boston, use bombs to target bystanders, kill police officer Sean Collier, hold the city of Boston hostage while hiding out in Watertown…I have no answers, no clue, and nothing but my own personal sadness, fears, and questions.

Today, we sit as a community, we sit as Bostonians, and we are patient with one another while we each process, cope, and question the events. Being a teacher at this time is heart-wrenching as I imagine a future for these students that is riddled with violence and terror. But, then I am reminded of the humanity and strengthen that Boston demonstrated despite the terror and I am hopeful that these kids can continue to infuse love, hope, and kindness into an aching city…and world. So back to SW.  She started her poem and I was speechless. Poignant, powerful, complex, tangible, frustrating, beautiful, and resonating. SW’s poem has haunted me since hearing it at 10:05AM.

The Land Of Things Come Undone by SW

Boom. Boom. Goes the finish line

And I’m on the road

Driving towards the only home I know

And I’m calm

Scroll goes the social media

And I’m home

Clinging to the smells I hold so deeply

The smells that linger on my clothes

Intertwined dog hairs and Momma’s home cooked meals

I’m waiting for panic to set in, but like the trains underground, my mind won’t let itself venture

Click goes the Television

Blurred shots from panicked video men at the scene

Anger sets in as I pick up the shoes which lie, sporadically strewn across the road

as if a bomb hit Foot Locker

and I remember the girl who I will never see at the dance studio again

her legs torn – almost to the point of amputation

and I’m coming undone

But wait..

Static sadness rushes through my veins

And I’m coming undone

Days filled with “i’m glad you’re okay” and “how you holdin up”

But it’s not over

And I’m waiting

Lying awake in my bed I can feel the tension as it boils, entering my heart’s different ventricles I hear it

Soft but sturdy,

Loud but bearable

Boom

And I’m coming undone

Blood stirring, heart spinning I count

One, Two, Thr- Sirens

Brain expanding, pins dropping

And it speaks again

Boom

and I’m down the stairs, calm and swiftly

Click goes the television

And the chase is on

Clinging to my father’s steady beating

As shots fire blocks away

I murmur the words I never thought I would hear myself say

I don’t feel safe here..

But the search is on and I’m still beating

The search is on and I’m not the only one scared

I must remain calm

Rise and shine and the photos are up

Rise and Shine and the spa music has halted abruptly

Leading me to answer the only other noise that I can bear

Ring, Ring

“I know him”

Buzz Buzz

“He’s my friend”

Click Click

“He’s one of us”

Scroll goes the social media

Killer on the loose Everyone stay inside

But I don’t feel unsafe

Because he’s one of us.. isn’t he?

And my mind is expanding

Neurons are connecting and I realize we can’t be one in the same

But we are Cambridge

We are open minded hipsters and bad mouthing “real talk” rappers

We are Ethiopians, Brazilians, Japanese, Chinese, and yes, Muslims..

And here I am stuck wondering if he’s at his best friends- three houses down from mine

And if so, what is he thinking?

Are you thinking about Ms. Davis and how she always told you you had a bright future?

Are you thinking about last saturday?

How your friends dapped you up and said peace out for the last time

Pondering the words that were ingrained in your mind from the past 4 years

Diversity. Opportunity. Respect.

Are you thinking about izzy’s jamaican patties?

The way your mouth watered as your teeth bit into the after school treat

Lockdown is lifted and I’m still not petrified

Because

my brother was friends with him

And my neighbor had sleepovers with him

And my crushes played video games with him

So he must be one of us..

And I’m coming undone

Bang Bang goes the gun

And I’m back inside

Click goes the television

And there’s his face

Staring at me as if I should have known all along

And I’m torn

Torn between the person we knew from our streets

and the person we now know on the screen

Lying there, bleeding and surrounded- I find myself praying they don’t shoot

Because more than the hatred,

more than the sadness, fury, and bewilderment I feel

I want to know why

And I’m coming undone

Off goes the siren

And I know he’s alive

He’s caught, were safe, and the mystery is over

And yet, as I take it all in,

I am finally unraveled- and the anxiety sets in

Heart pounding

I am left with the overwhelming urge to ask one question

Jahar, why would you do this to us?

2 thoughts on “poetry month and processing the boston marathon bombing

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