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ke itif6 z .;Alan Pogue The divided yet rich cultural experiences of biand often tri-lingual students is unique. But the striking clarity of emotion present in their poems is not so different from that of any child before he or she grows up and learns all of the rules. When talking to groups of teachers or other adults about my work, I often ask how many of them remember “ever writing a poem.” Most raise their hands and sometimes recall a structured class assignment or maybe a sappy high school declaration of desire. Sometimes I ask how many have written a poem since then. The room becomes silent. Where does the power to trust our own voices go? I take into myself… the power to know the languages as me being a mix-breed. For I am Spanish, Aztec, Gypsy, Hispanic My power shines with a purple light/light of tranquillity… I’m the kind of person no one listens to and commences yelling… better and perfect is what I live for…. Wendy I will settle for better at the Bexar County Juvenile Justice Academy where I have led workshops for the past several years. Students are sent to the Academy by the court system for a range of mostly nonviolent felonies. This is usually a student’s final chance to make it in an academic setting before being sent to a full-time detention facility. Their poems flame with equal parts anger and confusion. Again, I find, they are looking for water, for permission to speak their own truth. The flame the flame it’s like it’s in my head. My brain feels like it wants to die. Everything is wrong and nothing is right because everything I say everyone says it’s not true so I got it in my head that everything I do or say is wrong and not true so now my head is all messed up but it’s not me. It’s just my life… something wrong just got inside my head. Carlos I begin this workshop by asking students to recall an early childhood memory. Seven of the eleven students in the room say their first memory is being removed from their parents’ or grandparents’ homes. As we begin to write, a girl titles her poem, “Hands of a Man.” Later she says, “it took ten years for my mom to believe what he did to me.” It seems like they have all witnessed the violent death of someone that they knew. They look blank when I say a poem is one thing that can never be taken away. Their silence is a space where someone used to live. And I saw the black roses. All my family was there to see me fall to my knees. I remember wanting to scream and shout but nothing ever came out. Viola After class, an eighth grade girl reveals that she is pregnant. I am stunned by her callousness about the future. “My cousin just had a baby,” she says. “And so she only got to go to the carnival twice this year.” She is thirteen and the carnival should indeed be her biggest concern right now. I want to tell her to wait. I want to tell them all that there is plenty of time to grow up. There is also plenty of time to diagram sentences, to write reports and essays. They will all learn to do that. There is less time to sit here together and celebrate how good words that we need to say can taste rolling around in our mouths. The palm of my hand looks like the great canyon, it is thick like a rock, no one no one has the same hand as mine no one. Josh In his third grade E.S.L. class, Josh stares into space for a good twenty minutes before scribbling something on his paper with a stubby chewed-up pencil. He underlines the title three times, “The Pom of my Hend.” He looks up and says, “I couldn’t think of a place that is important to me so I just wrote about this place here, inside my hand.” I tell him that is the most important place of all. He smiles and ask if he can do another poem. I think he believes me. Jenny Browne works as a poet-in-residence in the Poets in the Schools program, sponsored in part by the Texas Commission on the Arts. Her first collection of poems, Grass, was just published by Pecan Grove Press. JULY 21, 2000 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 39