Poetry Is a Mirror

{August 22, 2008}   Family Poem

ASSIGNMENT: Write a family poem: Love, bond, baby girl, husband, life

— Ivelisse Z.


Breakfast at the Inn: A Family Poem

For Ivelisse Z.


The Georgia peach to my left

introduces herself and her pink-faced daughters,

explains her husband was too busy with work

to join them at the beach this weekend,

and would I pass the pitcher of cream, please.

I introduce myself, my own grown daughter,

who is sipping coffee from a mug, at my right.

“And where’s your husband,” Miss Peach asks,

smug as you please.

“My what?” I ask.

“Your husband,” in her lilting Georgia-ese.

“Oh,” I say, smothering my French toast

in puddles of maple syrup.

“I don’t have one of those.” The tone of my voice

carries an eye-roll and a puh-lease!

My life has never been the perfect

yellow-orange-pink of a ripe cut fruit.

My story would run far longer

than it will take for this Georgia Peach

to sop up the last of her runny eggs with her toasted bread

and leave. Love, bonds, a baby girl. No husband.

My life has been a strange and precious fruit,

which is what I’d like to say when Miss Georgia tries her pretty best

to console poor lil’ ole’ me:

“That’s okay, I guess,” she says.

“It is,” I answer, “exactly what it is.”



— Tzivia


{August 22, 2008}   Love Poem

ASSIGNMENT: Write a Love poem. Use Sound, color, animal and weather.

– Stephanie


Love Poem: Sound, color, animal, weather

for Stephanie



The day has all but given up — turns the color of weak coffee.

I’m heading home, too late,

my bicycle tire squeaking like a lost bird,

when a doe shoots from nowhere

into my path.

The air around my heart lifts,


This is how love finds us:

some mild evening


– Tzivia



{August 21, 2008}   How I Feel

ASSIGNMENT: Write a poem about how you felt about working in The Care Center and how you feel about leaving The Care Center after 8 years. Good Luck.

– Adelaida G.


How I Feel About Working at The Care Center – How I Feel About Leaving

for Adelaida


Working here feels like knitting a scarf that is long enough to wrap around worlds

weaving it with words instead of knits and purls.

Working here feels like digging for diamonds

with pencils instead of picks.

Working here feels like opening doors

using poems as keys.

Working here feels like making sunshine

out of feelings: anger fear, disappointment, joy and hope.

Leaving here feels like breaking your pencil point right when you find the best word for your poem.

Leaving here feels like a poem in need of a new metaphor.

Like putting down a book right when you get to the juiciest part.

Leaving here is made easier, knowing I leave behind me

a line of poets, pregnant with stories, emotions and wise words

who will continue telling the story

long after I’m gone.

– Tzivia

{August 21, 2008}   I Remember


ASSIGNMENT: Write an I Remember poem.

– Ericka


I Remember

for Ericka


I remember the smells of hand cream being applied during class

and the smell of pizza for lunch.

I remember the day a student discovered the rings of Saturn

circling her eyes.

I remember ‘goodbyes’ when students passed their GEDs

and tears at graduation – of happiness and pride.

I remember how one class renamed Poetry Class, Crying Class, and how we learned together the power in our emotions.

I remember the sounds of pencils on paper, the buzz of the sharpener, and requests for “More paper, Miss.”

I remember so many voices, each accented by honey or fire, by the timbre of chimes or drums.

I remember handwriting and lines from poems, even when I forget the student poets’ names.

I remember trying to break up a fight by yelling, “Ladies! Please!”

I remember new babies passed from hand to hand – our Care Center family growing.

I remember fashion critiques from students as I tried to interest them in metaphor or rhyme.

I remember the gray cat who used to crawl through the window during class.

I remember being called the Poetry Lady, The Happy Teacher, and Sylvia, and Miss.

I remember Hypatia and Religion class and Intro to Criminal Justice – two and a half times!

I remember yelling at a student for being late. She apologized, and never told me it was because her boyfriend was arrested that morning as he was driving her to school – and she had to walk the rest of the way.

I remember laughing so hard with a group of students one day that I had to sit on the floor.

I remember the sounds of students and teachers huffing, sighing and complaining, “Dios Mio,” as they climbed the last step to the third floor … just outside my office door.

I remember Selenia standing in the doorway of her office, proud and beautiful – a mother and grandmother to us all.

I remember every teacher who passed through and most of the students, too.

I remember a young woman coming to The Care Center shy and unsure, then blossoming day by day. I remember her standing up to read her poems in spite of her tears. I remember her coming to school wearing a medal one day. It was for rowing, but it could have been for just about anything.


– Tzivia

{August 19, 2008}   Adíos


Assisgnment: A goodbye poem … in Spanish.

— Angelica & the students in Lourdes’ GED class




para Angelica y las estudiantes de la clase de Lourdes

by Tzivia


Adiós a las estudiantes de la clase de español.

Adiós a las palabras que no puedo pronunciar.

Adiós a la poesía a las diez y viente cada miércoles.

Adiós a los sonidos de las chicas hablando y al bochinche que no puedo endender.

Adiós a decir, “Mira televisión en ingles!” y

Adiós a decir, “Aprendan inglés y pueden ganar mucho dinero!”

Adiós a los poemas bellos de bosques verdes, coquíes y de los olores cuando están cocinando.

Adiós a mis maestras

de la clase de español.

— Tzivia

{August 18, 2008}   In Eight Years Here I Learned

Write about the way you feel around us and write at least 10 lines about what you learned about us after being around us for so long. Each line starting with: I learned



In these 8 years I taught at The Care Center …


— Maria D.


In Eight Years Here I Learned

for Maria D. and Idelis


That phat isn’t a weight issue

and hooked up doesn’t have anything to do with connecting telephones, fastening skirts or hanging pictures.

I learned that when a student talks about her ‘moms’ she isn’t commenting on anyone’s sexual preference.

I learned to always assume the best

and that a sneer might be a smile that lost its way.

I learned there are many ways to do things right

and what looks like a mistake can be a saving grace.

I learned to love chaos

a little.

I learned what a fresh tattoo looks like

and the artistic potential in a bottle of nail polish.

I learned about pichones, bochinche and bachata.

I learned not to say “cállate!” in polite company

I learned that a poem written in 20 minutes by a young woman under 20 can go deeper and burn brighter than anything some dead Brit wrote 400 years ago

I learned everyone is a poet, even the girl in the basketball shorts and tank top who loomed over me and growled, “I won’t.”

I learned that no can mean maybe, and maybe can mean please believe that I can.

I learned to talk less and listen more.

I learned that my best teachers were sitting right in front of me.



— Tzivia

{August 18, 2008}   Haiku

Write a Haiku poem about an experience in The Care Center – good or bad.

— Yailine



5-9-6 Haiku

for Yailine and Anita’s Class


Haiku masters grant

more syllables for deep emotion

goodbye storms in my throat



— Tzivia




Haiku for Yaileen


Along with the breeze

A van arrives. Babies cry.

Mothers here to learn.


— Tzivia

{August 18, 2008}   I Didn’t Like

Write about something you dislike the most. Start each sentence off with I Didn’t Like.

— Ashley


I Didn’t Like

for Ashley


I didn’t like students crumpling pieces of paper with budding poems struggling on the line,

or students refusing to use both sides of the page – I could hear the rainforests crying!

I didn’t like Monday mornings any more than students did,

or that I was never able to get them to be as excited about Walt Whitman as I was.

I didn’t mind hearing: “I hate poetry” or “This is boring.” Those words were an invitation and a challenge for me.

I didn’t like students whispering in the back row or crinkling candy wrappers during poets’ visits.

I didn’t like pages with only a name and the date written on top;

only a ghost where a poem should be.

I didn’t like to see the shadows of past criticism and cruel judgment that revealed themselves when students said, “I can’t,” “I won’t” or “Mine’s no good.”

I didn’t like having to say goodbye.


— Tzivia


{August 18, 2008}   Journey

Assignment: Now here my journey ends … but also begins …

– Sharika




for Sharika & Ericka

and all of the poets of The Care Center, 2000-2008

March 2000, I enter this old house

Here my journey begins

A jumble of paintings on the wall; pregnant girls eating bagels, sipping juices in the hall

Here my journey begins

A totebag full of poems and paper

Here my journey begins

I’ll teach Whitman and Shakespeare, my hopes running high

Here my journey begins

I stand in front of the class, unseeing eyes mirror back

Here my journey begins

I say ‘Here’s some paper, please write a poem”

Here my journey begins

I turn pale as the moon, as the page in my hand

Here my journey begins

My voice quavers. I speak nonetheless

Here my journey begins

Harjo. Whitman. Frost, Piercy and Yeats

Here my journey begins.

Pens hover, pages wait

Here my journey begins

‘Don’t think; your pen knows the way,’

Here my journey begins

‘Write about colors. Describe your mothers. Don’t rhyme. At least five lines … ‘

Here my journey begins

‘Don’t tear that page, you’re breaking my heart’

Here my journey begins

Palms pound desks, doors slam, students stomp out

Here my journey begins

‘Poetry’s boring.’ ‘Poetry sucks.’ ‘Will this be on the GED?’

Here my journey begins

Ink spills, voices crack

Here my journey begins

Stories topple into print

Here my journey begins

‘My brother murdered’ one girl writes; ‘My father passed from AIDS’ A street at night, a girl on the streets, a candle, a room …

Here their journeys begin

‘My baby’s first tooth,’ ‘My love,’ ‘My life,’ ‘My husband,’ ‘My friend’ …

The voices increase, our journeys begin

Eyes fill with tears, our poems fill books

Here our journeys begin

The words dance, the words cry, words crouch, words stir, they soar

Here our journeys begin

My poem is done, theirs just begun

And now my journey must end

‘Teacher goodbye, but first write a poem

Before your new journey begins’

And so our new journeys begin.

{August 18, 2008}   How I Feel


Write about how you feel about leaving The Care Center and your new job.

– Samantha

Write an I feel poem.

– Christina


How I Feel

for Samantha and Christina


How does it feel to leave

what you’ve planted

What you helped to grow?


Each day, each week, another student disappears.

Someone I grew to have hope in. Someone I cared for.
Now it’s my turn to leave.

I want to say goodbye with care.

Not just disappear.

Leaving here feels like planting a garden

then moving away


petals will open

roses will bloom

but I won’t be there to see it.


The new job feels like a bed of soil

and I am holding a palmful of seeds

and I don’t know what they’ll grow to be.

– Tzivia

et cetera