It was 1996 or 1997. She was in my English class. The assignment was to write a poem, any kind. She wrote this:
You gotta be scared both ways to know what I mean,
To be where I’ve been~
Scared beating on the door from the outside
And scared when they let you in.
I still have the original in a battered binding of the tattered bits and pieces of my students’ souls.
Lines like this written by the son of a drug addict and a man in prison for murder: “I scream to the top of my lungs but there’s no one to hear it/I spread my wings to fly, but I’m too easily crushed by the hard nature of this world.”
And this: “I am from a place where we don’t have family sayings” in a poem about heritage.
And this: “He walked past me like I was just another rug on the living room floor” from a poem about divorce.
Scared, she said.
I don’t blame her.