Intrepid Girl Reporter

Friday, 7/2: to the moon and back again
July 2, 2010, 7:57 pm
Filed under: actual transcripts, poetry, Uncategorized

For me, packing largely means throwing things away. I have a massive guilt complex surrounding the act of discarding – birthday cards, scraps of paper that could be useful, et cetera.

But we talked a lot in JustFaith about simplifying, and I don’t think anyone would argue that my life, in particular, actually needs to be more complicated. Most oddsmakers, in fact, would probably bet the opposite. So I’m about to pitch all of the papers I’ve been storing in my desk, including a collection of poetry written by the fourth graders at the school where I was teaching in the spring of 2009.

Some of these, however, need to be preserved. I suppose that’s what the internets are for, ultimately. So here you go.

My Sister


My sister is very
nice she is
the best sister.

My sister is cool
by playing things that
I like to play.

My sister is sweet
because when it is a
holiday she never
buys anything for
me she always makes the

– Ricky L.

Seeing Barack Obama

Me and my cousin got up
I went to McDonalds
for breakfast
then stopped
at my cousin’s house

We walked 27 blocks
We were ALL the way back
by the TV screens
I was jumping on people’s backs

Later we went
and made
hot chocolate.

– Remy H.

This next one I chose for its use of capitalization. Very dramatic.

When I Got In Trouble

I was sitting
my desk
then I started
then my teacher told me
So I
I’m the
So my
teacher said
Go to the
other class
(she meant back to second grade…)
I got
and I
had to deal with Mom…

– Jared B.

My Daddy


He takes good care of me each
and every day
My dad lets me help
him with the cooking

He helps me with my homework
each and every day


I love you Daddy to
the moon and back again

Peace, big Daddy.

– Jada M.

My Struggling Parents

My struggling parents struggle
But I really like it when they snuggled
Please stop arguing, I say
But they usually say just pray.
Shall I be happy or sad?
Shall I be complaining or mad?
The rain falls down and cry
I always ask mom, why?
Her response has been praying
And I can’t understand what she’s saying.
My mom and I pray together
We shall always pray, forever.
My dad always loved my mom.
My dad always tries to be calm.
Stay calm and pray, I say.
Stay together, forever, I pray.
Stay in progress.
Stay in success.
I keep saying please stay together
Stay together forever
Thank you for trying, but do you think I should be crying?

– Destanie M.

I like to view this next one as sort of Dada, largely because, despite my best efforts, I can make no sense of it at all.

The Beggar’s Wife

She was begging for money
She left him for money
She lives in a fancy mansion
Oops, I forgot to mention
He never comes home
I wonder where he has gone?
Did he go to Rome?
Maybe that’s it.

(P.S. He is in Rome.)

– Zion C.

My Dog

I miss my dog
I miss my dog
I really really do.

I miss my dog
I miss my dog
My father does, too.

– Lamont B.

Context for the next one: the author had emigrated eight months prior from El Salvador.
The Trip

One of the last days of June
My dad calls then
One of my cousins responds
Then my dad says pass the phone to Josue
Then I say hello then you’re coming to live with us
He surprised me that I was going
I was bouncing with happiness

In the morning
We woke up
We eat then we wait for a long time
We wait for two ladies to come pick us up.
She said who wants to go with them?
Then me and my grandma
And my sister
They let us go.

– Josue T.

A Thousand Dreams

I’m going to dream a thousand dreams
going to fly through the sky
just the birds and me.
I don’t care what they say about me.
I’m going to dream a thousand dreams.
I might be a doctor and help people feel good.
I might be an astronaut, if I do what I should.
I might be a teacher and help people read.
I might be the President and help people be free.

– Marjai S.

This Is For My Mommy

This is for my mother I got
to let her know how much
I love her there is no other
Here’s a song coming
straight from my
heart somewhere should I
yell I do lady I love you well
for talking to me when
I couldn’t talk for picking
me up when I couldn’t walk for teaching
like wrong from right
Thank you God, thank you
Mother for giving me life
You fed me when you
didn’t eat and still
kiss me and had love
when I was sick
I was young but I understood
She’s my mother
man’s best friend
See Pops never lied
he said nothing’s wrong
as I got older you
see the story goes on.

– Samuel P.


Wednesday, 5/26: the weight of sweetness
May 27, 2010, 12:21 am
Filed under: actual transcripts, life progress, poetry

It’s a miracle that I’m writing in this journal at all, as my pattern for the last few days has been: stay out too late; spend too much money; return home feeling vaguely dissatisfied; lack any motivation to do anything; wake up late the next morning. So the fact that I’m doing anything, even something as unproductive as a blog update, counts as life progress. What a state of affairs.

I have some things I want to opine on/share.

1. I heard on All Things Considered tonight that BP has given a good deal of money to Florida so Florida can promote its beaches, which, handily, are unscathed by the recent oil spill. I do not like to get on the Let’s Yell About Current Events That Everyone Already Agrees On bandwagon (see: Enron, Columbine), but really, THIS IS INSANE. I mean, I suppose there’s no rule against them doing it, but it strikes me as analogous to some sort of killer who just printed out a picture of a bunch of people and was like, HEY, LOOK AT ALL OF THESE PEOPLE I DIDN’T KILL. Perhaps they would like a cookie? If so, it should probably be a cookie big enough to cap the GIANT FUCKING OIL SPILL they just caused.


2. A recent exchange at school.

MARSHE’, 4, has just finished throwing a tantrum and has been escorted out of the classroom.

MARSHE’ sounds like Chucky from Child’s Play.

MS. IGR Marshe’. What do you think I want to talk to you about?

MARSHE’ Mermaids?

MS. IGR No, Marshe’. I don’t want to talk to you about mermaids.

MARSHE’ (lets out a heavy sigh) Me crying.

3. We are putting on a production of Aladdin, Jr! at school. Perhaps you are thinking that this is a clever story about some sort of acolyte of Aladdin. Nope. It’s just shorter. However, in an inventive bit of casting flexibility, the Genie is a girl. “Everyone thinks the Genie should be a boy,” she confided in me. “Genies don’t have genders,” I told her. Also, Iago is this kid named Abraham who has this very Woody Allen thing going on, if Woody Allen was a nine-year-old Ethiopian kid.

4. For some reason, writing about Abraham (who, awesomely, has a brother named Noah) made me think about SaDaryl Parham, a kid some longtime readers may remember from my Summerbridge days. Abraham and SaDaryl bear no resemblance to each other whatsoever except for the fact that they both have awesome names, but I decided to go through my old LiveJournal (Jesus) anyway to see if I could find the description I’d written of him.

I wish, now, that I’d gone through and kept better records of all of my students. I should write a book entitled Children I Have Known. Revisiting my SBC days reminded me of how excited I was then, how pumped, how committed I was to the idea that a program could change these kids’ lives and the world. Maybe it’s just working for the giant vortex that is DCPS and my school, but I don’t feel that excitement anymore – as evidenced by the fact that I am dying to get to graduate school. Is this a personal failing? What happened to the way I once felt? I know this sounds stupid (again with the Joyce Maynard) because I’m not exactly aged, but still. I have the chance to plan a summer camp through DCPS, and I don’t want to. I have so little faith that the teachers they’ve hired will listen to me, or do their jobs, or that I will get supplies, or that if I bring in an activity it will even be received instead of me being accused of trying to force other staff members out. I am concerned that, once again, I will be accused of being racist, or of trash-talking my school, and it will somehow come out negatively on my performance evaluation even though it’s not true. I want to want to do this. I don’t want to feel a mounting sense of discouragement over the obstacles that I’m building out of my past experience. But I can’t help it.

5. That having been said, here’s the deal with summer and the future: I’m going to graduate school. There, I said it. I’m going to Tufts/Fletcher to make the next Sesame Street. I also considered Columbia/SIPA, but they didn’t give me any money and when we asked why we should go there they responded, “Do you want to live in New York? It’s like Disneyland for adults.” The whole scene was evocative of that part in Pinocchio where the bad kids try to get Pinocchio to leave Geppetto and go gambling and drinking or whatever it is puppets do to carouse. As for the summer, I am waiting on an internship. I was supposed to find out yesterday. Hopefully I will find out tomorrow. If they can’t take me, to summer camp I will go. Reading those old Summerbridge entries actually made me feel better about the prospect, and somewhat guilty that I didn’t submit my budget narrative today like I was supposed to.

4a. Returning to SBC: I also found this poem in my journal that I had forgotten about. I don’t know how I always manage to forget about how much I love Li-Young Lee.

The Weight of Sweetness

No easy thing to bear, the weight of sweetness.

Song, wisdom, sadness, joy: sweetness

equals three of any of these gravities.

See a peach bend

the branch and strain the stem until

it snaps.

Hold the peach, try the weight, sweetness

and death so round and snug

in your palm.

And, so, there is

the weight of memory:

Windblown, a rain-soaked

bough shakes, showering

the man and the boy.

They shiver in delight,

and the father lifts from his son’s cheek

one green leaf

fallen like a kiss.

The good boy hugs a bag of peaches

his father has entrusted

to him.

Now he follows

his father, who carries a bagful in each arm.

See the look on the boy’s face

as his father moves

faster and farther ahead, while his own steps

flag, and his arms grow weak, as he labors

under the weight

of peaches.

Monday, 12/7: no translating
December 7, 2009, 8:52 pm
Filed under: poetry

Generally, when I find a poem that I like – especially if it is a) by someone famous and b) about some sort of neurotic female figure – what I learn is that it has already been discovered a thousand times before, its pithiest quotes appropriated by girls for their LiveJournal headings in 2002.

As the woman who is probably my favorite author forever once said:

I know now that almost everyone wonders something like that, sooner or later and no matter what he or she is doing, but one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.

Remarkably, however, a Google search for the complete text of Anne Sexton’s “Love Song” reveals only two pages of results – this amid the fact that Madonna (Madonna!) apparently cribbed from it for a poem she “wrote” for her bodyguard. (Despite that, I still like it.)

Here is my attempt to add one more source to the mix.


I was
the girl of the chain letter,
the girl full of talk of coffins and keyholes,
the one of the telephone bills,
the wrinkled photo and the lost connections,
the one who kept saying–
Listen! Listen!
We must never! We must never!

and all those things…

the one
with her eyes half under her coat,
with her large gun-metal blue eyes,
with the thin vein at the bend of her neck
that hummed like a tuning fork,
with her shoulders as bare as a building,
with her thin foot and her thin toes,
with an old red hook in her mouth,
the mouth that kept bleeding
in the terrible fields of her soul…

the one
who kept dropping off to sleep,
as old as a stone she was,
each hand like a piece of cement,
for hours and hours
and then she’d wake,
after the small death,
and then she’d be as soft as,
as delicate as…

as soft and delicate as
an excess of light,
with nothing dangerous at all,
like a beggar who eats
or a mouse on a rooftop
with no trap doors,
with nothing more honest
than your hand in her hand–
with nobody, nobody but you!
and all those things.
nobody, nobody but you!
Oh! There is no translating
that ocean,
that music,
that theater,
that field of ponies.

– Anne Sexton

Saturday, 11/14: the widening gyre
November 14, 2009, 12:27 pm
Filed under: cultural theorizing, poetry

A few thoughts and observations on the Internets and other forms of communication.

1. I came pretty late to the Twitter party, and I use it somewhat infrequently because (fortunately for my productivity) DCPS blocks pretty much every web site available. So I’m not exactly qualified to opine on its usefulness and popularity, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I saw a friend’s tweet today that re-tweeted a tweet (did I really just write that sentence?) from McSweeneys magazine, under the topic #bleakraplyrics. Obviously, most of these are hilarious (“Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge and I am REALLY afraid of heights”). Clicking on the hashtag, however, allows the viewer – as I’m sure most Twitter users already know – to see other people who have contributed to this fun little parlor game, some quite cleverly (“What’s my mother f#*king name? Sorry, but these psychoanalytic methods aren’t helping retrieve any of my memories”).

This is the true genius of Twitter: fostering collective brainstorming. The networks are loose enough that ideas travel fast; all you need to see is one person on your friends list contributing to a topic in order to learn about it, after which you can pass it on to everyone in your list, et al. The character limit constraint prevents any one person from dominating the conversation and makes it easy to sift through all the ideas. And simply by clicking on the topic, you have a centralized place to look at everyone’s contributions.

I googled twitter + collective + brainstorming and no one else appeared to have written on this, so I feel okay making such an obvious observation.


2. As any regular readers of Wikipedia will surely have noticed (ahem), fake facts abound, often slid in next to real facts so that a casual glance might not reveal them. Usually, it’s pretty easy to pick these out, given their nature.

When truth proves as strange as fiction, however, it’s more difficult. Earlier I was reading about REM and then about Michael Stipe, who, as most people should remember, came out of the closet to no one’s surprise a few years ago. As I read, I came across the following passage (emphasis mine):

Stipe described himself as a “queer artist” in Time Magazine in 2001 and revealed that he had been in a relationship with “an amazing man” for three years at that point.[10] Stipe was also featured on the cover of BUTT Magazine in 2003.

This presents a conundrum. “Butt Magazine” is exactly the sort of name that someone with a juvenile sense of humor towards gay people might make up. On the other hand, porn is weird, and there are no names that I would really posit as off-limits. I couldn’t google “Butt Magazine” at work for fairly obvious reasons, so I had to wait until I got home to solve this mystery.

I should have more faith in the power of Wiki.



3. I was an English major who studied Yeats in multiple classes with several professors who were brilliant at explicating meaning in an accessible manner. Nonetheless, I was never able to get my head around the image of “the center cannot hold.” Currently, I am reading Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, and in a single inadvertent sentence, he applied a similar metaphor that made that line abundantly clear to me. That’s right, I didn’t get Yeats until I read a book about rap. Go on and judge me.

Sunday, 11/1: you don’t feel that you could love me but I feel you could
November 1, 2009, 4:44 pm
Filed under: poetry

Things with the IGRB are over, at least for the time being. Everyone involved possesses hopes of being friends, maintaining the relationship so carefully developed over months, and the reasons behind all of this, the who did and said what and when, are irrelevant, at least to you. For the most part, fault isn’t the issue. Of more concern, I think, is the pain we fear we are causing each other.

For my purposes, what I’m concerned about, after dealing with the levels and facets of feeling, is my urge to speak in other peoples’ words; this happens a lot, when I’m feeling hurt, because I lack the confidence that my own language is sufficient to express what I feel, and so after the hours of sleep – which is what people who deal with depression do – I find myself overcome with the urge to tattoo these poems, these song lyrics (song lyrics! am I sixteen?!), these passages over everything: on paper, on my skin, on my walls, in an effort to divest myself of some small segment of what hurts inside. To repeat them, over and over, like some sort of shallow, pop-culture mantra, until the pain is gone.

Even if you have heard these before. And you have.

Compulsively Allergic to the Truth
by Jeffrey McDaniel
I'm sorry I was late.
I was pulled over by a cop
for driving blindfolded
with a raspberry-scented candle
flickering in my mouth.
I'm sorry I was late.
I was on my way
when I felt a plot
thickening in my arm.
I have a fear of heights.
Luckily the Earth
is on the second floor
of the universe.
I am not the egg man.
I am the owl
who just witnessed
another tree fall over
in the forest of your life.
I am your father
shaking his head
at the thought of you.
I am his words dissolving
in your mind like footprints
in a rainstorm.
I am a long-legged martini.
I am feeding olives
to the bull inside you.
I am decorating
your labyrinth,
tacking up snapshots
of all the people
who've gotten lost
in your corridors.


First went wrong is hard to find
We’re paralyzed, we apologize
Our hell is a good life
Last went wrong, where’s my prize under the lights
Can we call it in?
We’ll be on the road
Can we stop?
When we stop my back will turn your face toward the fence
What I thought it was it isn’t now
All this weight, is honest worse
We’re moderate, we modernize
till our hell is a good life
All we know what to forget, how to do right
Coloring in the black hole
Can’t we stop? when we stop
My hands will shake, my eyes will burn
My throat will ache, watching you turn
From me toward your friends
What I thought it was it isn’t now
What I thought it was it isn’t
Punishment to stall what is done
What I thought was in is missing out
What I thought it was it isn’t now
There’s a pattern in the system
There’s a bullet in the gun
That’s why I tried to save you
But it can’t be done




I am the owl who just witnessed another tree fall over in the forest of your life.

Wednesday, 11/19: animals
November 20, 2008, 12:05 am
Filed under: IGR Recommends, poetry

I had this dream last night that I read a poem. That was it; that’s all I can remember; and I didn’t even remember that until I started looking for “One Art” in order to reference it for this stupid essay for this fellowship program, and as I read it I had this vague memory of reading poetry and being struck by the perfection of its composition. It was a feeling that I haven’t had in the waking world in a really long time, and, thinking about it now, I didn’t appreciate that in this fictitious version of my life; I was just thinking, “This is a good poem. I like it.”

I haven’t read a lot of poetry lately. It’s one of my fairly constant goals, to broaden my horizons instead of returning to the same ones over and over, and there’s no reason for me not to do such a thing, but I just don’t always. It’s kind of like going to sleep at a decent hour. On any given night, there is every incentive for me to sleep and almost no positive results from staying awake until 2. (The allure of sleeping until 10AM wears off after five months of unemployment.) And yet I just don’t, whether through some sort of mental sloth or a fear of failure (failure to what? to understand a poem? to fall asleep?) or God knows what. Until I suddenly want to again, and then I read everything I can find for a week or two and set my alarms. There are a lot of things I haven’t been doing lately that I should.

But the memory of that poem inspired me to spend half an hour going through the archives of Rachel’s old blog to find this poem that she posted a long time ago, that I loved at the time, that I knew had something to do with maps and was by Sharon Olds. The only other poem-seeking I’ve done lately is Frank O’Hara, and quite frankly, that’s only because I a) saw him quoted on someone’s Facebook profile and b) Mad Men. Surprise: I don’t like the Sharon Olds one as much as I used to – I’m not crazy about it at all right now, actually, but maybe that’s because I’m not in any sort of love – and I really like Frank O’Hara. But I’m going to post them both here anyway, because I’d hate to lead you on.


Sharon Olds

After we flew across the country we
got in bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco againt your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas, your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Frank O’Hara

             Have you forgotten what we were like then
       when we were still first rate
       and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth

       it's no use worrying about Time
       but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
       and turned some sharp corners

       the whole pasture looked like our meal
       we didn't need speedometers
       we could manage cocktails out of ice and water

       I wouldn't want to be faster
       or greener than now if you were with me O you
       were the best of all my days

Monday, 10/20: clever clever
October 20, 2008, 5:38 pm
Filed under: poetry

I found this while looking for Gerard Manley Hopkins’ “Spring and Fall (To A Young Child).” I’m not sure that I totally agree with it (that would require a deeper understanding of our current economic state than I have at the present moment), but I found it amusing nonetheless. Read them both if you’re not familiar with the original.