Inside American International School of Lagos

school is an island on an island.  Surrounded on all sides by walls with
rolled razor wire on top, the school sits on Victoria Island, part of the
seamless sprawl of 20+ million people that is Lagos. Teachers live within the
school walls in an apartment building actually attached to the school.
began with a single poem for the elementary crowd and then joined Michael for
an hour-long assembly for grades 6 through 12.  The kids were responsive
and attentive, the faculty present and engaged.  Afterwards we heard from
administrative types that there was some trepidation in advance. 
Apparently we were performing on the scorched earth where a few other
presenters had crashed and burned. But those speakers must not have been poets,
because we were clearly before fans. Through the rest of the visit, Michael met
with the upper school while I had a jaw dropping experience with the

is truly an international school, with almost as many nationalities represented
in each classroom as there are kids occupying the desks.  In advance of
our visit Michael and I had emailed 60 poems to  for teachers to use in
familiarizing the kids with our work.  One of the poems I sent was a poem
about brothers that reads:
My brother is
a redwood,
wedged between my toes.
My brother is
a basketball,
jammed up in my nose.
My brother is
a scratchy coat
cut too small to fit.
My brother’s
a mosquito
just begging to be hit.
My brother is
a chain saw,
that once started whines and
My brother is
the chicken pox.
He cannot be ignored.

mentioned in a foot note in the pack of poems that due to some oversight on my
part, I had never written a poem about sisters and invited a student to help
close that gap.  The collaboration by the two writers below has
delightfully balanced this scale and is representative of a stack of poems we
received in response to our advance poems.  Seems as if sibling friction
is truly an international phenomena.


sister is a boogie launched inside my nose,
sister is a monster doll playing with my clothes.
sister is a sneaky brat who always wants to join.
sister is a little rat waiting to be shown.
sister is a rotten egg waiting to be cracked.
sister is a troll making me look fat.
after all my sister, my little crabby sister,
is not a monster now a troll.  
is my little tiny sister and 
a fact.
here is another, this one heavily illustrated by a team of artists who also
took the suggestion to improve upon the poem if they choose, in this case
adding cakes to the candy.  Why not?

Thank you Kay Riley and the library
staff, Bick and Garth (and families), who hosted us for dinner at their
apartments and for all the kindnesses and smiles of the students.  I will
tell you straight up, the school was a lot more welcoming on the other side of
that steel door and rolled wire fencing than it looks.  We were sad to say
goodbye to our new friends in Lagos.

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