Love Story, by Shawn’drea Pierre
The feeling’s mutual
you know I feel the same
as I smile when I hear your name
when you touch my skin my toes crawl
just remember me, like I remember you.
Just remember we start as friends,
just me and you.
I have a friend who used to say she had the perfect title for a country song : “I’m Savin’ My Tears for the Teenage Years.” At the time, we both had young children, and although life was busy, the problems we dealt with day to day had simple solutions, like trying new recipes so they would learn to like vegetables or making sure they were dressed warmly enough for school. Raising children is similar to taking a boat out on the lake–it’s easy to be a great sailor if the water is calm and the wind is mild, without a cloud in the sky. The teenage years loomed ahead of us like an approaching thunderstorm–would our children really turn into uncontrollable, unhappy tyrants who made us stay up nights waiting to hear the house key turning safely in the lock? Would our hearts break along with theirs when first friend, first crush, first love turned sour and sad? How could we protect them from the ugliness in the world? How would we be able to trust that they could find the right solutions to their new, grownup problems? How are we going to bring that boat safely home in rough, rocky seas?
My friend and I managed to weather the maelstrom of adolescence without too much damage (although sometimes it felt like we were taking a merry jaunt on the Titanic.) I don’t know too many teenagers now, but I was reminded of that delicate, treacherous time when we had the KIPP Renaissance students in to read their poetry, and then again when we all listened to it during the broadcast. I don’t know how many people tuned in to hear it, but the topics they chose to write about–love, loss, fear, courage, pride, hope, identity– are the common themes that resonate with all of us, regardless of our age.
Grandma, by Tamia Thomas
Grandma, you’re the best.
I love your smile,
We dance together, we sing together,
Talk about our favorite moments.
Open your eyes and respond to the family.
You were at the hospital since Friday afternoon.
I slept in your hospital room.
Grandma stay strong and don’t leave me.
Despite the strong messages and emotions behind the poems, the teenagers often had a hard time letting themselves convey the difficult feelings they had expressed in their writings. I don’t think any of them were trying to be cool or blase; it was more of an awe for the power of what they had written, and it was easier to whisper the words or speak them quickly to avoid reliving the pain or the joy or the fresh memories they conjured. These teenagers didn’t act like tortured souls full of anguish, and yet some of the poems were as angry and raw as an exposed nerve. The sat together and giggled and checked their phones and practiced singing the latest Rihanna song to get ready for the talent show later in the week, but the loudest singers suddenly got shy when confronted with the microphone and their true feelings on paper. They were navigating the adult world, but they were absolutely still children at heart.
Breathe by Christopher Rising
She dove deep into the crevices of the sea
Hoping to find light
As she dove
The emptiness filled her chest.
Unreasonably there was an opposing force
She gave a tear
To show that she had found the light
She looked up to find a blissful fire in the sky
She felt a reason to breathe
The emptiness was then filled with light
Her eyes shining with a red–
it was light.
Like the cool fire within the day’s sky
Breathe, my child, breathe
Breathe to live.
Breathe to love me.
I’ll wait for you to find me.
Live to run and play within the day’s sky.
Live to rest in the fulfilled grass.
Feed from the generous trees of the day.
Live to grow.
She then arose from the water to breathe.
She breathed the freshest air of the day’s sky.
Her skin glimmering bright.
I hope this sensitive, poetic group of teenage/adult/children, as they sail the waters to adulthood, will remember to “live to run and play within the day’s sky”. I hope they will keep writing and finding ways to express their thoughts on the world, their families, their lives and their loves. And of course, as Christopher Rising’s poem advises, to breathe.
A recording of the poems by the KIPP Renaissance students can be heard on iTunes. Here is the link: