I know that the title of this blog post sounds strange, but you'll understand it once you've read my newest poem about one of my oldest memories:
The Star’s Shadow
by Susan L. Lipson
I stared upward at the gold, foil star stuck proudly below my bitten fingernails, to the right of my one wrinkled thumb, and now held aloft in my first-grade teacher’s tight grip.
“Look at this! This is yesterday’s star for spelling!” she announced. Everyone looked at my treasured sign of specialness. Except me. I looked at the teacher’s downturned lips and her wrinkled nose. My skinny arm trembled in her grasp.
She clucked her tongue and asked, for everyone to hear: “Why did you leave it on your hand? Don’t you wash every day?” Everyone looked at our teacher’s grimace. Except me. I looked down at my desk, where a big teardrop had just plopped onto the math quiz she had just delivered, marked with a few red x’s, and no smiley face.
I had washed my hand. But I had washed around the star.
“Children,” she asked with scary sweetness, still gripping my wrist, “remember our lesson on the importance of cleanliness?” Everyone nodded. Except me. I was clenching my teeth, trying not to blink, so that tears wouldn’t spill.
My teacher clucked her tongue again, dropped my hand, and strutted off to the next desk, to deliver the next graded math paper.
Hiding my right hand under my desk, I pinched off the star, folded it into itself, hid it in my pocket, and then tried to rub off its grayish, adhesive outline. I wanted to go wash off the star’s shadow in the girls’ bathroom. But I was too afraid to raise my hand to ask permission.
Have you ever dug into your past as I have in this poem, to examine the profundity of relatively mundane moments that influenced your evolution? Try walking in your smallest shoes again so you can see your little child self with new empathy.
At breakfast with two artistic friends this morning, we discussed the importance of encounters, either unplanned or planned (like ours), in nurturing creativity. Artists create works for the purpose of catharsis or connection, and too much alone time can lead to blocked artistic flow. Our meandering discussion touched the topic of worrying, and the notion stayed with me for the next few hours, finally crystallizing into the new poem below. I don't usually post a first draft, but I am doing so today to convey how connections can catalyze creativity and compel communication (not to mention excessive use of alliteration). So, here's the poem that enables me to justify a fun morning off with extraordinary friends. I hope you'll let me know if it moves you. And if you do connect with my words and wish to read some more polished poems, check out my newest published book, Disillusions of Grandeur--and Other Eye-Openers (click title for more info).
by Susan L. Lipson
Worrying is a symptom
of our sick need for control—
control over all that occurs outside of our own actions.
Worrying has no power to change circumstances, events, or others’ decisions;
no power to heal, show support, or remove pain;
no power to maintain a dependence upon our input.
Worrying disempowers us,
erecting walls around our crumbling castles of control,
blocking our view of the reality beyond our courtyards.
#NationalPoetryMonth inspires me to add more poetry to both my own and my students' writing collections. So I use prompts with them that also move me to write what I assign. My students liked this, and I hope you will, too.
(inspired by the poem "Harlem," by Langston Hughes)
by Susan L. Lipson
What happens to social outrage,
never acted upon?
Does it whirl around like a funnel cloud,
in search of captives to uplift and transport,
Or does it hover indecisively,
Then get blown out to sea?
Does it spark like twigs and logs,
carefully stacked and lit,
Or choke like embers
smothered by handfuls of sand?
Maybe it just gets buried,
like nuclear waste?
Or does it burn like a city set ablaze by rioters?