Tuesday, November 14, 2017

DMC: "The Poets of Sequel Residential" by M. H. Barnes




THE POETS OF SEQUEL RESIDENTIAL

The lost boys hunker lonely
in a bunker without windows.
Some say rats or roaches
scritch-a-scratch behind those walls.
Most have never seen them
or even bothered trying—
like weapons
in a shoebox
tucked away in darkened halls.
They scritch-a-scratch
in shadows,
like whispers or a promise,
and listen for the voices
that will get them through the night.
Damaged goods in transit
with contaminated motives,
they scritch-a-scratch
to understand
and one day find the light,
to make their moms and grandmas proud,
their daddies understand,
they scritch-a-scratch
their fingers raw
and let the anger simmer.
They scritch-a-scratch
in veins of ink
that bleed onto the paper,
until, in silence,
words ignite…
and cast a golden shimmer.


© 2017 Michelle Heidenrich Barnes. All rights reserved.



Click HERE to read this month's interview with Carol Hinz, Editorial Director of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books, divisions of Lerner Publishing Group. Her challenge this month is to write a poem that finds beauty in something that is not usually considered beautiful.

Post your poems on our November 2017 padlet. While some contributions will be featured as daily ditties this month, all contributions will be included in a wrap-up celebration on Friday, November 24th. One lucky participant will win a copy of The Sun Played Hide-and-Seek: A Personification Story by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Carol Crimmins, and published by Millbrook Press earlier this year.






26 comments:

  1. Challenging topic, Michelle. I especially like the contrast of (perceived) threat and youth: "weapons/in a shoebox/tucked away in darkened halls" and "voices/that will get them through the night."
    Words are so necessary, for understanding, making proud, igniting. Good job!

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    1. Thank you, Tabatha. It is an interesting contrast—such a complex mix of maturity and immaturity. Even though none of these boys was incarcerated for use of firearms, it's a compelling source of fascination for them.

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  2. I love the repetition of "scratch-a-scratch." It really help set the mood of the poem. Thanks for the work you did with these boys. You made a difference!

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    1. Thank you, Linda. I feel so fortunate to have been given the opportunity!

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  3. in veins of ink
    that bleed onto the paper

    I'm speechless.

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    1. Thanks, Diane. I really think that's what it was like for some of them. The last day I was there, one of the boys was visibly upset because he had written three more poems since I last saw him, but he couldn't put his hands on them to share with me. Nearly broke my heart.

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    2. I did the same thing many years ago with the male inmates at a state prison...very unnerving, very surprising, very insightful. Love this poem, especially those lines Diane picked out; quite powerful.

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    3. Thank you, Matt. I do wonder sometimes how different it would be working with incarcerated men— for me and for them.

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    1. Thank you, Liz. And thank you for your help in polishing it up!

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  5. Michelle, this is so beautiful--I read it this morning and it stuck with me all day. I love the way it sounds (all those lovely S's), without thinking of meaning, as well as the idea you capture. Especially love those last lines.

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    1. Thanks, Rebekah. I'll never forget the image of all of them hunched over their desks, "scritch-a-scratching" on their paper with such focus and intensity.

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  6. Fantastic. I admire how you've used rhyme (halls/walls, shimmer/simmer) in a serious poem. So often, I think people assume rhyme must be paired with a silly or whimsical tone. Very well done!

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    1. Thank you, Jesse. I agree, rhyme can be a very powerful tool when when used in an unexpected way!

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  7. Love the repeated scritch-a-scratch, the veins of ink bleeding, and especially the fact that you are helping these young men find their voice. (And that they are showing you their world and inspiring you to speak of it.)

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    1. Thank you, Buffy... and for helping to make it a better poem! I hope I get to do more work with these boys... or there's another facility with girls that I may be able to work with at some point.

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  8. Quite a haunting and visceral image you've portrayed Michelle, in your deeply moving poem; and reinforced by each repeated, " scritch-a-scratch." I hope this "golden shimmer," becomes available for these boys.

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    1. Oh, that golden shimmer has already made several appearances! There was some serious writing talent in that classroom. I just hope they'll continue to nurture their creativity when they get out of there.

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  9. Heart-breaking.
    Appreciations for your time with these young writers.
    This is a chilling & then uplifting answer to the beauty-from-ugly challenge.
    You are a wiz.

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    1. Aw thanks, Jan. I don't really feel like a wiz, though. More like a messenger. :)

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  10. So many wonderful lines to fasten on, but I think I like the ending best.
    until, in silence,
    words ignite…
    and cast a golden shimmer

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    1. Thank you, Rosi. The glow was definitely there at the end of our last workshop. I hope it endures.

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  11. Well, instead of starting my day reading your post, I am ending it and find it something to remember. You've written from must have been a heart-rending time for you, but heart-searching for those boys, Michelle. My dad, long ago, taught a class to men prisoners to help them learn job search techniques when they finished their terms. He often talked about how important it was to give them respect and hope. It seems you did that, and I love the "scratch-scratch" continuing, pushing at them, and you, to make change. The "veins of ink/that bleed onto the paper" shows a gift they won't forget. Thank you!

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    1. Yes, respect and hope is key! In the end, I'm not sure if it was the poetry these boys were responding to, or the fact that someone bothered to take the time to come in and give them some attention and nurturing without casting judgment. Probably a combination of the two. All I know is that it was a worthwhile experience for all involved!

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