Today's Poem: BethenNoriko inspired by Terrance Hayes's "Shafro"

Terrance and me: Antioch MFA Graduation 2005.
Poet Terrance Hayes was the speaker at my MFA graduation and I've had a little writer's crush on him ever since. I used this poem with my classes and wrote this pop-culture bit. And there are only a few days left in April: National Poetry Month. Even David Gantt wrote a poem. Come on people. The comments section is for poems!

By Terrance Hayes

Now that my afro's as big as Shaft's
I feel a little better about myself.
How it warms my bullet-head in Winter,

black halo, frizzy hat of hair.
Shaft knew what a crown his was,
an orb compared to the bush

on the woman sleeping next to him.
(There was always a woman
sleeping next to him. I keep thinking,

If I'd only talk to strangers. . .
grow a more perfect head of hair.)
His afro was a crown.

Bullet after barreling bullet,
fist-fights & car chases,
three movies & a brief TV series,

never one muffled strand,
never dampened by sweat--
I sweat in even the least heroic of situations.

I'm sure you won't believe this,
but if a policeman walks behind me, I tremble:
What would Shaft do? What would Shaft do?

Bits of my courage flake away like dandruff.
I'm sweating even as I tell you this,
I'm not cool,

I keep the real me tucked beneath a wig,
I'm a small American frog.
I grow beautiful as the theatre dims.
By Noriko Nakada
Inspired by Terrance Hayes’ “Shafro”

I see you on TV
So thin,
So skinny.
And I think I hate you.

But Bethenny, you actually crack me up.

I want to hate you
With your book deal
And reality TV show
And perfect little baby.

But I want to drink Skinny Girl margaritas too.

I want to lounge by a pool in Malibu
And do yoga
And ice skate with stars
And visit food trucks.

But I don’t get how you’re so skinny.

When TV adds ten pounds
And you like your drinks (even if they are skinny)
And you’re a foodie
All at the same time.


April is National Poetry Month!

I penned a couple with my students for National Poetry Month. We used the Pablo Neruda poem "You Will Remember" as a spring board. Of course, I went back to my childhood haunts... I invite you to pen a poem for April as well!

You Will Remember
By Pablo Neruda

You will remember that leaping stream
where sweet aromas rose and trembled,
and sometimes a bird, wearing water
and slowness, its winter feathers.

You will remember those gifts from the earth:
indelible scents, gold clay,
weeds in the thicket and crazy roots,
magical thorns like swords.

You'll remember the bouquet you picked,
shadows and silent water,
bouquet like a foam-covered stone.

That time was like never, and like always.
So we go there, where nothing is waiting;
we find everything waiting there.

House on Jones Road
By Noriko Nakada
Inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “You Will Remember”

The house stands tall casting dark shadows.
The willow grows still, a tether of weeping branches.

Stiff roots press solid clay,
And water falls past those same shadows.

Breezes blow past carrying the same scents
In thin mountain air around a tall gray house.

The Deschutes
Inspired by Pablo Neruda’s “You Will Remember”

In town
Your water
Flows like glass
Slowness and mirrors
River as pond
And stones stand still.

Where you narrow
Water comes to life
The smooth click of rock
Striking rock
A rush of sound
And you tumble on.


An Easter Excerpt from Through Eyes Like Mine

Surviving Easter Mass

aster is the longest mass of the year because I have to wear a dress and my feet hurt because my shoes are so stiff. The church is crowded, and hot and smelly from the incense the altar boys pour all over. Palm Sunday mass is actually longer, but Easter feels longer because chocolate eggs wait in baskets at home. There will be an Easter egg hunt, and then ham and scalloped potatoes for dinner. 

I watch the families come in and count the number of girls wearing Easter bonnets. Mom never lets me get one but this year I really wanted one to go with my First Communion dress. After the procession I gaze up at the Stations of the Cross: Jesus is condemned to death, Jesus falls the first time, Jesus falls the second and third times, until eventually Jesus dies on the cross. I stand, sing, sit, kneel and half-listen as the priest talks about spring and life and death. Spring is supposed to be about life, but ever since Greg Bob died over spring break this time of year always reminds me of death. I try to stay awake and remember this is a joyful occasion even though I don't understand how Jesus rose from the dead. Why would it take three days and what was Jesus doing in that cave all that time? 

Everyone takes Communion or gets a blessing, and I recount the Easter bonnets to make sure I didn't miss any. After Communion, I think about chocolate, Easter eggs and ham. Just a few more prayers, "Peace be with you" and finally it's the recessional. The altar boys, the priest, the first and second rows file out and I follow them into a cool spring morning of chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps.

Through Eyes Like Mine is available at Amazon, Powell's, or for order from your local book seller. 


A Central Oregon Spring Day in LA

We're having an unusually cool start to spring here in Los Angeles with highs in the 50s for the past couple of days. Clear, smog-less skies scattered with cumulus clouds and crisp dry air reminded me of spring in Bend. There have been no snow flurries, no frost on car windows to scrape but when I got home from a long day at the softball field my face felt raw from the relentless wind. I've sneezed at least twenty times today and can't stop my eyes from watering. I love the usual LA spring: cool mornings, afternoons in the seventies, but this week took me back to the tennis matches and baseball games during the clear spring days of my youth. The only thing missing is juniper pollen.


GOT Teachers?

I attended one of the most disheartening of meetings today. My employer unveiled a new process for which I will not be evaluated. It's called, wait for it, G.O.T. or Growth Over Time. It's a way my value as a teacher will be not be judged based on how well my students bubble in answers on a flawed assessment. Well, I won't be evaluated or judged by it yet.


Now, I could go on, and on, and on... about how much this sucks but I thought instead I would write about something I love about teaching. And hey, it's NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Month so I figured I would write a little something about my second job. It's a haiku. It's all I could muster.

When students mistook
Sasquatch for a vegetable
It made me chuckle

I dare you. It's April. Write a haiku comment. All the cool kids are doing it.

If you want to read more about GOT, here's a link to Emerson's PD Blog.