Prompts for Middle School Teachers Who Write Poetry, After Dante Di Stefano by Richaundra Thursday

Write too many desks bulging unyielding classroom walls.
Make an ouroboros comparison to too much content pressing
Against too short class periods. Write a funeral dirge for Civics.
Write a sonnet about passing kids in grocery aisles and hiding
Your panic when you realize them knowing your name
Is not mutual. Write meetings that take place too early
And odes to mediocre pastries.
Write a cento of phone calls home: Voicemail, disconnected
Number, ‘I will talk to him,’ Voicemail of someone else,
‘She’s with her father today, call him,’ ‘Well, he says the problem
Is you,’ Disconnected line, Voicemail, ‘Sorry, we’re just
Really busy here.’
Write a dozen good mornings to pubescent stories
You’ll never hear, battles you’ll never know, triumphs
You’ll never share. Believe in them like fairies or angels or reimbursements.
Write from the perspective of gum under a desk,
Write the apocalypse as seen by all the leftover Takis
Strewn over every sidewalk. Write a pastiche
Of ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ involving anchor charts.
Write papers graded after the janitors go home,
Papers graded in the dark, papers graded at home,
Papers graded in front of the tv, papers splotched
With wine or tears, papers graded in dreams,
Papers no one else sees, papers that wail failure,
Papers as street signs, giving direction.
Write about giving directions, try not to let
The bitter of your coffee seep into your similes
Of repeated performances.
Write ‘modalities,’
And ‘differentiation’ and ‘engagement.’
Make a strained pun on a student name.
Erase it in a cloud of FERPA paranoia.
Write about knowing everyone’s drink preference,
Avoid cliches like ‘in the trenches with,’ or
‘Front lines.’ In this timeline of potential armament,
Refuse to identify as soldier.
Write about hope.
Write it over and over. Scrawl it on whiteboards,
Tape it to tables, carefully print it on rubrics,
Slide it between book pages.
Whatever else you explore,
Write hope.


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