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Waiting for Her to Die

Waiting for her to die,
Should we be happy or sad?
Should we be sorry or glad?

No more treatment.
No more meds
Those doctors have lost their creds.
No more stuff,
She’s had enough.

“Let me go!
You all must know
I’ve had a good life.
I’ve been a good wife.
And a loyal mother.

“I’ve been a good sister to each dear brother
A little demanding, yes that is true,
But, I’ve always been there for each of you.

“Unhook the tubes.
Detach each wire.
Bath me and put on a fresh gown.
Comb my hair and lay me back down.
It’s time for me to retire.

“I’m going home
No more to roam.”

Should we be happy or sad?
Should we be sorry or glad?

 

 

Anna J. Small Roseboro, a National Board Certified Teacher, wife of fifty-two years, mother of three, is a published poet and author of fiction, and non-fiction texts, but is primarily an educator. She has over forty years experience in five states teaching English and Speech to students in middle school, high school Education Theory, Curriculum Design, and Oral Rhetoric to those in college.  Now retired, she coaches new writers and early career educators across the nation, and emerging leaders at her home church, New Community Church of God in Kentwood, Michigan. Her website is http://teachingenglishlanguagearts.com/

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Acquainted with that Song

While this poem doesn’t fit tidily into any of our three categories, I think it is more than appropriate to publish it this week in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. It is a profound poem, and I hope you enjoy it. – W.R. Harris

 

A Short Background of the Poem by the Author (Originally Published in TEACHING ENGLISH MIDDLE SCHOOL LANGUAGE ARTS: Incorporating 21st Century Literacies)

You probably recall from attending poetry readings yourself that poets often explain the incident that gave rise to particular poems. Invite your students to do this and model such an introduction yourself. That was done before reading the draft of the poem evoked by the Robert Frost poem, “Acquainted with the Night” read that day. Here is what I gave as background for the poem.

In 1996, I was a part of a team of teachers who, sponsored by Rotary International, served as ambassadors of education to Kenya, Uganda, and the French island of Mauritius. I had never been to Africa and was thrilled about the opportunity, but a little apprehensive at the same time.

Families who were curious about us and about our country often volunteered to be our hosts. On our last evening in Mombasa, Kenya, our new friends had a lawn party and invited members of the local Rotary groups and their families to attend. After dinner, they asked each member of our team to speak about our time in Mombasa. When I arose to speak, trying to compose myself and gather my thoughts, I looked up. Seeing the brilliant night sky, it all of a sudden it struck me that I could be standing on the soil of my ancestors; they could have stood in this same place and witnessed such a sparkly navy blue night.

As a fifth-generation descendant of African slaves, I don’t know where exactly in Africa my family is from. Nevertheless, standing there in the Kenyan night moved me deeply. Tears leaked from my eyes; primordial memories arose and clogged my throat; I couldn’t see; I couldn’t speak, but somehow I began to sing the old Negro Spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”  To this day, I have no idea why that particular song came to me. Nor did I realize how deeply lodged in my memory that experience had become—until I began patterning Robert Frost’s poem “Acquainted with the Night.”  It was then that I understood Epstein’s point that writing is a form of discovery.

Describing my African experience did help my students understand that we humans often do not know what we think or feel until we read what we write. I encourage you to write with your students, too. You, too, may unlock something memorable about an experience you have had and may write a poem you are willing to share with your students. Here is mine.

 

 

Acquainted with That Song

 

I have been one acquainted with that song.

I’ve sung the song in tune—and out of tune

I have held that high note oh so long.

 

I have sung the song—clear like a loon.

I have kept within the music’s beat

And swooped down low, yet staying right in tune.

 

I’ve sung that song and let my voice just soar

While deep within my soul, the words brought tears

That slipped right down my cheeks; my heart just tore.

 

That song, reminding me of trials sore

Experienced by people who did so long

For freedom, justice, rights, and so much more.

 

Freedoms they’d awaited far too long.

I have been one acquainted with that song.

 

—Anna J. Small Roseboro, “Acquainted with That Song,”

patterned after “Acquainted with the Night” by Robert Frost

Published in TEACHING ENGLISH MIDDLE SCHOOL LANGUAGE ARTS: Incorporating 21st Century Literacies (2010)Rowman and Littlefield: Education

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My Son, Bob

          Military men had come,

with news no parent expects to hear,

“Ma’am, yesterday in Sasebo, Japan, Navy officers

found your son in his apartment…

 dead.

 

“He didn’t show up to the ship.

They went to his apartment.

They found him…

dead.”

 

“My son is dead?

He’s never coming home!”

 

My son , Bob, is dead!

In the twilight, I reel in limbo

In that haunting ground

Between dread of awake and terror of nightmare.

 

Tension tightens my neck

Flows down my back

Becoming a fiery fist

at the base of my spine.

 

   That night…I lay in bed praying to process the news.

         Fingers clutch the fragrant bed sheet;

         Thighs stiffen into planks

         And toes tingle like ice cubes.

 

      (An image appears…)

 

       A doorway opens…

       I recognize the place.

       Bright light streams around two figures.

     I recognize the people.

 

     Standing there is Grampoppa,

     Haloed by light

     Light streaming all around

                                              Extending his hand in welcome.
                                              “Come on in, son!” he says.

 

                Behind him, is Grammamma,

                Peaking over his shoulder.

                Light streaming all around

                               Her welcome smiles from her eyes.

 

                “Come on in, son!” he beckons.

 

                The voice is familiar.  I’d heard it over the years.

                Grampoppa said that when the uncles were home for Mother’s Day Dinner.

               “Come on in, son!”

                He said it at Father’s Day and birthday gatherings.

               “Come on in, son!”

 

Grampoppa and Grammama are there to greet my son!

                 To welcome him home with them

                 In heaven.

                 I believe it.  

 

Heaven is home.

So, I’m content.

 

                 I sigh and breathe.

                 I believe it.

                All is well.  

 

Bob is with Grampoppa

Bob is with Grammama,

All is well.  

 

               I sense another voice,

               “Anna, my child. Your son, Bob, is home.

               All is well.

               See, he’s with family.”

 

At peace,

I drift into healing, comforting sleep.

 

 

Anna J. Small Roseboro, a National Board Certified Teacher, wife of fifty-two years, mother of three, is a published poet and author of fiction, and non-fiction texts, but is primarily an educator. She has over forty years experience in five states teaching English, and Speech to students in middle school, high school Education Theory, Curriculum Design, and Oral Rhetoric to those in college.  Now retired, she coaches new writers and early career educators across the nation, and emerging leaders at her home church, New Community Church of God in Kentwood, Michigan. Her website is http://teachingenglishlanguagearts.com/