Not a smart mouth, not unkind. Just a question from a third grader today at R.C. Waters Elementary in Oak Harbor, OH.
The morning assemblies were actually a comfort — it was good to be with happy children without parentheses of pain about their eyes — like stepping from a darkened theater into the sun, it required some adjustment. Why was I there teaching them to write poetry?
Yesterday I spent much of the afternoon putting in a new garden in Katie’s back yard, made up of plants gifted in memorial. A lilac bush, an azalea, two hyacinth, and lots of forget me nots. After that I drove 90 minutes to Toledo, checking into a hotel. Late last night, Katie called me to read me a poem she’s written, composed after listing pages of words collected from the wishes, fears and medical reports of Stephie’s last days — a strobe of a poem that made my eyes water.
Today the third grade writers were listing details about their bathtubs. From hair in the drain to bubbles up the nose, we talked about the importance of details in making clear images for our poems. The blond girl had a pencil in one hand and her paper in the other, sitting on the floor, when she turned to me and asked with a genuine interest in my response, “why are you teaching us to write poetry?”
“Because someday you will need it. I can’t tell you when, but you will.”