Dear Writing poem

Shortly after NBA champion Kobe Bryant died, I watched his film, Dear Basketball, for the first time. I was profoundly moved by his passion for the game and by his gratitude for it. I composed a post afterward, Dear Writing. Today on Ethical ELA’s Open Write, Susan Ahlbrand invites us to write a letter to something we are passionate about, in poetic form.

Here is my first attempt at reworking my letter into an epistolary poem…

Dear Writing,

It is time to tell you
how much you mean to me
for it is more 
than ever before.

Let me begin
at the beginning
when you first materialized.
I was, what, about six years old? 
I wonder now whether I discovered you
or you discovered me
sitting there at the coffee table 
in the living room, 
wide-ruled paper in front of me,
a fat pencil in my hand. 
All I know is that it began with story. 
A pull 
a beckoning
a desire 
to get what was swirling inside me 
onto pages. 
By some great alchemy
my blocky letters
erratic spelling
rudimentary sentences 
ceased to be merely themselves; 
combined, they became something
distinctly Other. 
And there you were.
Almost a living, breathing presence. 

I didn’t know then
that you’d come to stay
that as I grew
you would grow with me. 
That you would, in fact, 
grow me, 
always pulling me to more.
To think more
explore more
discover more
strive more
play more. 
To be more.

Do you remember the diary
Grandma gave me for Christmas 
when I was ten or eleven? 
The front cover adorned
with an illustration of a little girl
trimmed in pink
complete with brass lock and tiny key. 
Do you remember this entry: 
I wrote a story and 
I hope it will be published…
whatever happened to that diary—? 
To that story? 
They’re lost in time. 
No matter. 
I can see that page in my mind to this day
—is it you that keeps this memory alive?

People began to notice our relationship
early on, didn’t they.
Teachers said we were a good thing
and offered tips 
on how we could be stronger. 
Friends and family told me 
to stick with you: 
Please keep writing. 
I owe them all 
for how they shaped
you and me.

Where would I have been without you 
in my teenage years? 
In the early days 
of my marriage? 
Those were the poetry years
the journal years
when you let me glimpse 
the beautiful inside the uncertain
when you compelled me 
to pour out my heart. 
You were bigger than 
my anguish
my anger
my fear. 
You channeled it all, 
absorbed it all. 
Ever how circuitous the path
how violent the storm
how steep the mountain
how dark the night
how deep the pain
you were there
leading me 
to safety
to calm. 

Even now, I reach for you
and you are there. 
Like the ocean
you bring forth 
unexpected treasures
and healing. 
When my emotions 
and energy are spent
washed clean away, 
you reveal over and over 
one thing 
that always remains: 
Hope.

For there’s always more 
to the story
to the ones that I create
to the ones that I live. 
I think that’s perhaps 
the most important lesson 
you’ve taught me: 
This chapter of life is ending.
A new one is about to begin. 
Embrace it. 
This is but one
of your extraordinary powers. 

Then there is
your amazing ability 
to mine my memory…

With you I am any age I ever was. 
I sit on my grandfather’s lap once more. 
He walks with me, holds my hand. 
I hear his voice. 
I am in Grandma’s kitchen
while steam fogs the windows
I am in her arms 
as she rocks me and sings: 
Jesus loves me, this I know
I see my father’s blue eyes
I hear my mother’s laughter 
and the whir of her sewing machine 
late into the night. 
With you my children are still little
my husband is young
black-haired
healthy
whole
and out on the court 
shooting hoops. 
And every dog I ever loved 
comes bounding back to me 
in absolute joy
all my shortcomings
forgiven.

With you, I relive it all. 
The parts I am proud of 
and the parts I’m not
the moments I cherish 
and the ones I survived. 
With you, they all become 
a celebration
of living,
of learning.

I learned long ago 
that I can harness your power 
to attack 
but you showed me 
that this doesn’t bring me peace.
You taught me, instead, 
to defend. 
Not as a warrior 
with drawn sword
but as a careful guardian
of my own mind and heart. 
Not by destroying
but by edifying. 
You enable me to walk 
in another’s shoes 
and see through another’s eyes
to understand that fighting 
doesn’t move the hearts of others
but story does. 

There’s something
of the divine about you.
Marvel of marvels
how a spark 
in the human brain 
becomes a thought 
and a thought
becomes substance 
because of you. 
Like something from nothing. 
Ex nihilo. 
It’s how God created, 
speaking the world into existence. 
With words. 
Without limits.
Anything is possible.
Believe. 

I believe there’s a sacredness 
behind the human spirit’s desperate craving 
to create
to express
to be heard…

which brings me back 
to six years old
at the table
pencil in my hand.

You will outlive me. 
You are my record.
You are what I leave behind.

Let it be the best of me.

Know that you’re an inextricable part
of who I am, 
one of my life’s greatest gifts. 
Meant to be given. 

And so I give you away.

I am grateful beyond words.

I love you.
Fran

One of my many writing notebooks

To the children

writing in notebook

Writing. VassilisCC BY-SA

Dear Children,

I am thankful for you.

For your uniqueness, for your existence, for the lens through which only you can see the world.

I am thankful for your courage, your stories.

That you feel free enough to write about what you know, what you’ve lived, endured, and overcome in your young lives.

That you have the strength to share your early taste of loss—of pets, of parents, of siblings, of homes.

That you escaped abusive homes for ones where you could thrive.

That you left another country for mine—for ours.

That you learned from watching the failures and mistakes of others close to you.

That you learned to forgive others and even yourself.

That you learned to persevere, that you accomplished what you set your mind to because you kept trying.

That you faced your fears and came safely through.

I am thankful for what you teach me each day about listening, seeing, discerning, wondering.

I am thankful for the reminder that curiosity and questioning are natural, that creating something from whatever happens to be lying nearby is a hallmark of the human soul.

I am thankful for the beauty you bring to the world.

I thank you for daring to pour your hearts onto the page, for laboring at it, and for your truth.

I thank you for the unparalleled honor of reading your words, for the moments of laughing with you, crying with you, and standing in awe of you. For the privilege of helping you capture your ideas and communicate them clearly, of seeing you realize the power of your own voices. Of simply being on the receiving end of the important messages you have within you.

If I have inspired any of you, know that I am inspired a hundredfold in return.

Keep writing, Children, and I will do the same, for we owe it to ourselves and to each other—we need to read our stories as much as we need to write them.

I carry you and your stories, your abiding images, with me always.

Always believe in yourself, for I believe in you. In who you are now, in who you will become.

With love and profound gratitude,

your writing teacher

*******

Inspired by students I’ve taught and others whose work I’ve read.

Thanksgiving challenge: To whom are you deeply grateful, and why? Write this person a letter expressing your gratitude. If  your person is still living, read your letter aloud to them face to face or by phone. If your person is no longer living, read it aloud in a place that’s meaningful to you. Celebrate what this person has added to your life. Celebrate the power of writing and the transformative power of gratitude. 

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