Tomorrow night, I will lead a graduate course on writing poetry and will conduct a "Magic Box" activity I've used since I began teaching in 1998. The poems begin with a gift of a magic box. The writer opens it and takes out ten items from their imagination.
The ten items I picked were inspired by Terry Farish's THE GOOD BRAIDER and the in-between spaces graduate students and I have been reading about in relation to English language learners. Each item from the box is then carried through a series of word-associations (prompts to apply poetic devices) to initiate additional language from which the poet can compose.
For Daughters Like Viola
in between spaces are places to exit inhibiting caves,
to jump in autumn leaves and to run fingers through oceanic waves
leaving post-traumatic scars to sing the song of elephants,
and leap towards the stars and moons….
these are the healing rants,
the healthy chants that give us the chance
to do somersaults in summer pools
& leave the self-doubt to fools
with those chains that still need to be broken.
tears are born from frustration,
they’re confessions, and hesitations about looking back
on the highway before us,
a language is found to survive.
Ms. Meija, we ask you to make us feel alive and
when sleep questions, “Do you remember me?”
we pull out our typist’s tapestry,
a newer canvas for composing reality,
“Yes, we do. We’ll soon meet again.”
If we close our eyes, we promise to dream….
to return to scribbling scraps and unravelling the seam
without listening to anything but the winds.
Another glass of red wine and we will rest.
In writer’s notebooks, nothing but the best
for the doodle-dumping of ideas into museums
that are made from the maker’s mind.
We write to feel royal…
to find equity braided in palm-oil,
where one hand guides another
through the weaving of mind, body and soul.
At the podium, it’s 78 degrees with a breeze,
mangos grow from the sleeves of African rain
& wash away the pain of of bombs, gunfire, & tobacco
wrapped tightly in a bundle of suede.
We must persuade ourselves
that there are more cups of tea to be made
and salt-water to treat forgotten wounds.
We must find friendship born from sorghum,
kale & groundnuts, to write our stories together.
Books are our celestial soup,
intellectual nooks for honey-whiskey and Oreos,
imagination is what brooks from the land
& grows with booming beer, snickerdoodles and
Crayolas. Our ideas are like candy.
We need Zen, 9 times out of 10, for the epiphany,
Congolese drumming for serenity,
and harmony to reach nirvana
while zip-zapping memories of Habuba’s Juba voice.
We always need a choice.
of taking elephant steps beyond colonial bones…
to read Lukolumbe’s library beyond Western historical zones,
so Viola doesn’t have to dance alone.
We must zig-zag our braids
made from Sudanese-American truth.