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I Remembers with the Garfield Elementary Fourth Grade

By Bhanu Kapil

Last year, for National Poetry Month, I visited Garfield Elementary in Loveland, Colorado and did “I remembers” with the fourth grade.  This April, I went again.  Our collaborative poem is in two parts.

The first part is with the current fourth grade in Mrs. Strid’s class: Mrs. Strid being their incredible teacher who loves poetry, builds it into her class and is also a volunteer coach for Odyssey of the Mind, an after-school club in which children create, among other things, spaceships from bits of cardboard and duct tape.  The day I went to teach poetry in the school, the “O.M” Weird Science group, including my son, had just found out they were going to “World.”*  (In Ames, Iowa.  The birthplace of Brian Evenson.)  Many of the O.M. kids were in the poetry cafe we had.  Apparently, poetry, radical invention and outer space are somehow connected.  The “cafe” met on the floor of the school cafeteria.  I pulled out a bird’s nest, a Frida Kahlo Day of the Dead shadow box, Christmas ribbons and a bag of cheetos from my carrier bag.  We wrote I remembers, prompted by that that detritus: birds, death, disgusting snack foods and December.

The second part is a prose-poem “I remember” written by Theo, my son, who was gutted that he missed out on poetry club now that he’s in fifth grade.  We had just watched a documentary on 2012, so that is the source of some of the apocalyptic imagery.

I REMEMBERS FROM THE VALENTINE CITY

1.

I remember writing the word the.

I remember when I lost a cricket in the house.

I remember when I lost my idea.

I remember when I walked on the grass and cut my foot open.

I remember Star Wars before it was done.

I remember when I had a new flavor of jelly bean for the first time.

I remember Frida Kahlo on the cafeteria floor.

I remember I was born on the day before the Twin Towers fell.

I don’t remember.

I remember my Uncle Matt’s hospital pain.

I remember my Uncle Matt’s suspenders holding up his pants.  I remember when a nest fell on the ground with the eggs still in it.

I remember my mom wouldn’t let me buy Justice clothing because it was too expensive.

I remember death in a glass box.

I remember when [Max] died.

Can I tell you how he died?

I remember a color.

I remember a table.

I sat on the table.  I remember when I sat on the table.

And not the floor.

I remember it before it happened.

I remember my first child’s recital.

I remember when my child ate cheese for the first time!

2.

I remember myself trying to get out of school. I remember the fuzzy light around the pussy willow buds. I remember the documentary of 2012. I remember the pink light in the sky at the end of the documentary. I remember the bomb. I remember the volcano. I remember all the people dying in the Civil War. I remember trying to sneak on to Civ. with Abby. I remember talking to Melissa in the car driving home the back way from Boulder. I remember the moss on the hamburger. I remember adopting a whale. I remember getting a shirt getting thrown over a changing room stall and getting stuck on my head. You make this paragraph. You go to bed. NO. I remember the daffodils. I remember the scale. I remember the god. I remember the exchange. I remember the death of my dog. I remember the teacup shattering on the ground. I remember the death of people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I remember the dream. I remember the test. I remember the plan. I remember. I remember the photo. I remember the spy. I remember the document. I remember the lightning bolt crashing five feet away from me. My hair stood up. I was walking home from a sleepover. This is no lie. I remember. I remember, I remember, I remember.

*Garfield is a low-income public school.  The kids are fundraising so that every one on the team can go to the World finals, which no-one has ever gone to in the history of the school.  (This is them at “Regionals”: above.  Spaceship on right next to boy in red head-to-toe Alien onesie.)  If it’s not too weird, could I fundraise for their team—the money would go to the non-profit P.T.O.—as part of this blog post?  The goal is to raise $3000 to cover the registration fee for the whole team. If you are interested in supporting poetry-loving ten year olds who are obsessed with the apocalypse, W.B Yeats and outer space: please write to me at thisbhanu@yahoo.com or send a cheque to:

Garfield Elementary P.T.O, Garfield Elementary, 720 Colorado Avenue, Loveland, Colorado 80537.

Please put POETRY AND SPACESHIPS in the subject line.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 by Bhanu Kapil.