Tell me without telling me poem

Yesterday on Ethical ELA’s VerseLove, Scott McCloskey invited teacher-poets to compose around “tell me without telling me,” the popular social media meme from a few years ago: “Tell us (through vivid sensory details and whatnot) that you are __________ without telling us you are __________. ” In his model, Scott masterfully incorporated many fragments of famous poems that have inspired him to write, followed by this reveal: “Tell me you’re a poet without telling me you’re a poet.”

So for Day 9 of National Poetry Month, here’s mine… it incorporates bits I’ve written before… and there’s SO much more to write…

It all began, I suppose,
in a darkened room
when Grandma plugged
this thing called a color wheel…

it sat on the floor, rotating, illuminating
the all-foil Christmas tree.
There in the dark
the sparkling silver tree
transitioned to red, blue, gold…

a stillness, a riveting

There was a girl
in my childhood church
who played the piano
accompanying the sanctuary choir.
Once, she stood alone
in front of the handbell table
reaching, grasping,
her white-gloved hands
a blur of choreography
playing those bells solo
never missing a note.
She was sixteen.

a stillness, a holding of breath

I don’t remember
learning how to read.
It was just a thing I could do.
But in fourth grade, the teacher
(built like a mountain, with a face
and heart of carved stone)
read to us every day.
An intelligent, artistic spider
who saved a less-than-radiant pig.
A boy who didn’t want that annoying,
subversive, endearing, ol’ yeller dog
that ended up saving his life, 
before picking up the shotgun…

My God. My God.
I almost died with that dog

and there have been books
in my hands,

in stacks by my bed,
ever since.

a stillness, an absorbing

There’s more, so much more.

At nineteen, 
walking into the community theater audition
where the handsomest man I ever saw
sat with a script…

we were married in less than six months.

Thirty-seven years this summer.

Two years in, when he said he was called 
to preach, I said
Well, you’ll be miserable 
unless you do.

a stillness, an abiding

Our oldest son saying
over and over
I’ll never go in the ministry.
It’s too hard a life.
Not getting married or
having any kids, either.

Just after he enrolled
in seminary,
he met a lovely young lady
with a little daughter
named for the title character
of his favorite book.
In the fullness of time
and in the span of a month
he became a husband, father, 
and pastor.

It was ordained. Jehovah jireh.
God provides.

Last fall, he named his newborn daughter
Micah. Which means
Who is like God?

Indeed, who?

I am still, and know.

*******

(Tell me you are awed without telling me you are awed)

(likely to be continued…)

Struck

Yesterday, it happened

at morning arrival
buses and cabs lined up
behind the school
waiting for the ringing of the bell
to release students into the building

staff gathering outside to receive them

while across the narrow street
from the sidewalk
graced by quaint and picturesque houses

a little child crossing

a car coming out of nowhere

not stopping in time

the sound

indefinable thud
like one low drumbeat
or heartbeat

a split-second silence
before collective screaming

then sirens

flashing lights

a knot of people

police and EMTs

a little red jacket in a heap
on the gray asphalt

two loose shoes underneath the car

staff, all the while
attempting to usher
other children inside
but they have seen
they have seen

some saw the little one
clutched in his weeping mother’s arms

some saw him
helped to his feet,
able to stand

some saw EMS get him
into the ambulance

all the long, dark
storm-clouded day
murmurs of
shock
horror
worry

until, just before dismissal,
he came to school with his mom
to show his friends he is okay
his little scatched face, pure sunshine

many of us
overcome with tears
awestruck
by this heroism
on her part
and his

and by the amazing grace
of God

that happened yesterday.


Child shoezendriticCC BY-NC-SA.