Amid the Destruction, Poetry Stands

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debris-strewn road after tornado in Trussville, Alabama

This picture, one taken only a street away from a dear friend’s house, is one of many telling the story of the tornado destruction in my school community of Trussville, Alabama.

I’m awakened at 3:00 a.m. Monday morning January 23 to the television, radio, and tornado siren warnings…and it felt like the April 27th all over again. Tornadoes feel all too common in Alabama these days, and as my students entered the classroom yesterday, their stories of loss and destruction filled the room.

Thanks to our amazing principal, Phyllis Faust, who leads our family of teachers and learners every day, our students feel safe and encouraged because they know they have a school family to embrace them not just in the good times, but in the tough ones as well. Those students who were able to attend school yesterday showed strength and saw past the sadness and the destruction. They offered encouragement and hope to our “family,” those friends and community members who lost possessions, homes, and loved ones-not with monetary donations, or clothing, or supplies…but with poetry.

Ralph Fletcher’s poetry book, A Writing Kind of Day, and his mentor poem, “Poetry Stands,” reminded us all that poetry has the power to heal wounds, and when everything else around us falls apart, poetry stands.

Below are a few examples of poems written by my sixth-graders to lift the spirits of their friends and community members (first drafts written in a 47-minute class period, I might add ☺ ).

These young writers believe that words do have the power to heal, and amid the destruction in our community, poetry stands.

Branden’s poem

Don’t feel bad
Lots of people understand
Mrs. Faust calls us a family
For one simple reason
If one of us goes in
Then we all go through it
I know this day was grim
I know this day was tough
But I also know
We can get through this together
As one big family
On January 23 and beyond

Empty by Sadie

Pain will one day be an old enemy
It embraced us tightly
Yes, the silent tears in my heart remain
The feelings of fear and loss
I’m afraid of my shadow,
Alone in a quiet, dark room

But light shines through
A light of hope
Faith covers my wounds
Peace overlays a destroyed town

And again I hear comforting sounds
Birds chirp.
Angels sing.
Today’s a new day

Noah’s poem

You have feelings of fear and loss
But friends are here to protect

Destruction has happened
Loss has come

You are a part of this city
And we will all help

Be brave.

Happiness rules
Where fear can’t go.

My January 23rd Dream

I rest in a night of sleep
Pushes and nudges
Awaken me to the feelings of
Fear and loss
I fly to the window
Not seeing life
The tv is blaring

It takes a while
Until I realize
The faint sound of the alarm

The rain
The thunder
The lighting
The wind
Drained the sound
Of the noise I remembered
Not too many months before

The signal
That destruction and debris
Would be all that’s left

Until the sun begins to rise
January 24, 2012.