Monday, December 26, 2005

I Tried to Talk to God (Matthew Schultz)

I ain’t been to sleep in days.
I ain’t felt this bad in years.
I drank some mud this mornin’,
but the brew can’t fix my heart.

Nah, it can’t fix my heart.

I ain’t been to sleep in days.
I ain’t felt this bad in years.
I answered the phone this mornin’,
but it didn’t have no advice.

Nah, it didn’t have no advice.

I ain’t been to sleep in days.
I ain’t felt this bad in years.
I showered up this mornin’,
but a shower can’t clean my hurts.

Nah, a shower can’t clean my hurts.

I ain’t been to sleep in days.
I ain’t felt this bad in years.
I talked to God this mornin’,
but he didn’t say nothin’ back.

Nah, he didn’t say nothin’ back.

I ain’t been to sleep in days.
I ain’t felt this bad in years.
I wrote a song this mornin’,
but my geetar wouldn’t sing.

Nah, my geetar wouldn’t sing.

I ain’t been to sleep in days.
I ain’t felt this bad in years.
I tried forgettin’ her this mornin’,
but life just ain’t no cinch.

Nah, life just ain’t no cinch

(WRT310 Creative Writing, Fall 2005)
(Posted with permission of poet)

Monday, December 19, 2005

"A-Bomb, My Love" and "Sad Moon" (Poems): Nicole Sura, Jeff Rice, Leah Humes, Matthew Firestone, Laura Hulsaver, Ashling Kaim, Paul Easton, Amanda Dinmore, Dianna Sauder

I decided to set up a blog for my writing students, although what I'm posting today comes from my Introduction to Literature class.

I continue to be amazed by my literature students and their abilities; every now and then, I come up with an exercise that taps into something deep within them.

It’s not brilliance on my part, but the literature itself that opens up some creative muse already within them. Good literature that stands the test of time seems to help young (and young at heart) writers to stretch their abilities beyond the egocentric realm of self and into the world wide view.

I teach a basic literature course, typically taken by college freshmen. The course is required for English education majors but is also a general elective for every other major, so, as you might expect, I get a lot of "10 o'clock scholars."

At first, many students assume this course will be an easy "A" without much effort on their part. However, while "A’s" are highly possible--and I do award a lot of "A’s"--I do make my students earn them, but not to make their lives miserable; I want them to exit my courses having learned something vital about literature and its place in their lives. Perhaps I don’t reach every student, and I don’t expect them to love every work I assign, but I try my best!

I love this course and hope to teach it for a long time.

Although I use many of the same works, I try to develop new exercises each semester because the dynamic of each class differs. One semester, students got into Sylvia Plath--this semester, they connected with Alan Sillitoe’s "The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner" and John Hersey’s Hiroshima.

But when I walk into that classroom on the first day of class, I never know what I’m going to find. This semester, now just wrapping up, I walked into the largest class of my career: 29 students.

Panic. How do I manage such a large group?

I tend to base my classes on the small-group model because I believe that students learn much more about literature through self discovery than if I just offered ex-cathedra lectures. I do give some background and explanations, but then I let them loose in groups, after which they report back to the class.

But managing a large class using this model was challenging in that I had to add groups and expand them into 6-7 students each, making it too easy for shy students to hide. Also, I didn’t get to know all their names and faces together, a regret.

In the last test of the semester (before final exams), I offered my students the option of responding to one of two works by writing a poem. Now keep in mind, these students have only 75 minutes to complete the exam, and this option is in addition to a required question. Here’s (along with the actual instructions) what they did:

Referring to some of the bomb images (in your own words, not copied word-for-word from the texts and film), from Hiroshima, Fail Safe, and "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains," write a five-stanza poem, five lines per stanza (25 lines total, free verse or in any style). Set your poem up as follows:

Title: "A-Bomb, My Love"

Stanza #1: A Noiseless Flash

Stanza #2: The Fire

Stanza #3: Details Are Being Investigated

Stanza #4: Panic Grass and Feverfew

Stanza #5: Aftermath

(Each stanza is a chapter heading from Hiroshima; my exams are always open book, closed notes. One student got carried away in the last two stanzas and expanded them by a couple of lines, but that’s okay.)

* * * * *

A-Bomb, My Love

The sirens didn’t sound
the people didn’t scream
A noiseless flash was all there was
and my heart [as it] began to pound
as I was thrown into the stream

My body burned as if on fire
My air was gone I could not breathe
All around people lay scattered and dying
smoke billowing up from their funeral pyres
fires all around the city and stream.

"What happened?" everyone asks
because no one knows the truth
It was the A-bomb, my love,
people’s faces slide off like masks.
Was it the Americans, we have no proof.

Days and weeks after
death and destruction still reign
Doctors mystified by the symptoms
there is no more laughter
as people writhe around in pain.

Years after people are still affected
Their daily lives reflect upon their past
The details may be a little blurry
The memories will never be perfected.
After all it happened much too fast.

Nicole Sura

* * * * *

A-Bomb, My Love

As I drink my coffee,
And sit to read the paper,
I am interrupted by a picture taken outside my window,
Now I am on my back, 10 feet from the pane
What’s that you ask? A-Bomb, my Love.

The orange glow outside draws me to the door,
A mushroom in the sky, and a strange odor.
The smoke is black as night,
The sky is gray and thick.
What is that you wonder? A-Bomb, my Love.

Viewing the devastation, it’s like love at first sight,
Lepers crawl and squirm.
Small children like small white serpents on the ground,
Husbands run to their wives as their hair falls out,
What’s that you scream? A-Bomb, my Love.

In wake of death
Out sprouts a tree.
A few berries where once lied a crater
A miracle or malignant, radioactive garden?
What’s that you whisper? A-Bomb, my Love

So now as we rebuild
What was once a city
And leave what was once a home,
If you ask me what happened,
I’ll say A-Bomb, my Love.

Jeff Rice

* * * * *

A-Bomb, My Love

A noiseless flash
a white explosion of light
it looks like a light sent from heaven.
But be warned.
It wants nothing to do with heaven.

In place of the wondrous light comes realization, and fire
Red and orange and yellow tear through buildings
like they are made of fog.
The smells of sulfur and smoke and fear waft through the streets.
People are running blindly with confusion in their eyes.

Investigation. Words these people don’t understand.
It was lightning thrown down by angry gods, they say.
No. They are corrected.
It was an atom bomb.
Oh, but what did we do to deserve this?

Gutted buildings, bare trees, and lingering fires
greet people when they come back to their home.
It seems as if they aren’t wanted there.
They have been pushed out.
At least that is how it seemed.

As a new phoenix rises from its ashes,
a new city did as well.
Green springs from the ground in the most unlikely
of places.
Finally, they have time to move on.

Leah Humes
* * * * *
A-Bomb, My Love
A noiseless flash, a shortened dash
To find cover in a place of work
blinded by fear
Unconscious, but not dead
Unknowing of the horror that lies ahead

The fire engulfs all that remains
escaping with life, ignoring the pain
"Where is the safety in this labyrinth of flame?"
"Who can we save? Who to let die?"
Nothing is clear to explain to us why

Details are coming in, for the question we sought
Apparently this disaster is not what we thought
Panic still swarming
like bees of a crushed hive
"Why are so many dead and I’m still alive?"

Why are so many sickening?
I’m so tired I can’t think
Someone head to the river and give them all a drink.
Many problems arising, resources getting few
Ground getting greener, but outlook is so blue.

The aftermath is now real
I’m so numb, I’ll never feel.
I wish so much that I could forget
Make my children understand
The tragedy that occurred, inside the walls of our homeland.

Matthew Firestone
* * * * *
A-Bomb, My Love
I am very tired
I close my eyes.
I awake suddenly, and I
Feel my heartbeat in my throat
Beating a mile a minute. I see a

I feel warm, now hot.
I can not see anything,
Except my flesh burning. I hear
women, children, infants...shrieking.

Now I feel a hand
There is a man carrying me.
I can see...barely. The debris covered
City looks like a jenga puzzle.
Houses, trees, even people piled on top of each other.

My body is numb.
I slept for an hour. It is
the day after. Am I
still alive? The doctor gives me water.
I can not drink it--it feels like poison ivy
running through my burnt system.

Was it all a dream?
What exactly happened?
The city is ruined, it will NEVER...
Be the same!
Did somebody say "Bomb!?"
Where is my husband--what happened?
"A-Bomb, my love," I heard the doctor say.

Laura Hulsaver

* * * * *
A-Bomb, My Love

I had barely awoken
when a noiseless flash burst through my house
I look outside through my windows
All broken
I set my eyes on the disastrous scene

The fire outside was eating my town
was eating my life
My neighbors ran in pain and suffering
too slow to escape the heat
I set my eyes on the disastrous scene

The death toll keeps rising
There are too many to save
Doctors don’t even know the cure
Other countries aren’t providing any aid
I set my eyes on the disastrous scene

Our city is a mess
People walk around like zombies
once a beautiful place
is now than uglier than hell itself
I set my eyes on the disastrous scene

Now children are born with the burden
the diseases born that day
have snuck into our bodies and are passed on
is it not enough what we went through
that now my child must be part of
this disastrous scene

Ashling Kaim
* * * * *
Sylvia Plath’s "Edge," a 1963 poem (163), written six days before her death, is often referred as the poet’s suicide note. Assume that you have found and read "Edge" before the poet took her own life, and you want to talk her out of killing herself.

Your charge: Write your own poem (10 non-rhyming couplets, 20 lines total), titled "Sad Moon," in which you answer each of Plath’s lines with your own original line. In other words, you are creating a poetic dialogue with the speaker of the poem.
* * * * *
Sad Moon

The woman isn’t perfected
Her children

reach to see her smile
The need of a mother

to be there for them
in all her beauty

they want to say
mamma please don’t go

each live child, laying full of joy
each of them smiling up

their lives still in front of them
they don’t want you to go

They have left your body
but don’t want to leave you

as you grow older
their love only gets greater

the moon will be sad for good reason
if the children are left alone.

She will weep for them
if you leave them so

Paul Easton
* * * * *

Sad Moon

You have come so far.
Sad moon

Your body should keep smiling,
Live on to show

How much you have to offer,
Your naked

Feet whisper to you:
We have come far, but not far enough

Your writing is your children.
All beautiful

Not needing milk to live.
Keep them

Close to you always
A garden

That keeps blooming.
With the pressure of your pen

Sad Moon has everything to prosper.
Looking through your eyes

Life you need not be used to.
For tomorrow there will be sun.

Amanda Dinmore
* * * * *

Sad Moon

Your writings have been perfected
You’re alive

There is so much more to write about
The illusion of your great poetry

Flows in the words of a song
Her truth

Hands seem to be saying
Go on, you have more to say

Each beautiful child you bare, a nestling baby,
one son, one daughter

Pitcher of life so full now
She needs to go on

Life moves on with you in it
like a flower growing towards the sun

Stretches and moves forth
From the sweet days that have passed

The moon has something to be sad about
Staring at you now

She is not used to this emptiness
She moves forward and keeps writing

Dianna Sauder
* * * * *
NOTE: All poems have been posted with e-mail permission from their authors.