Saturday, July 24, 2010

Poem in Your Pocket Week

It's funny how some memories stick in your head and won't let go.

Every year the elementary school where I taught had a "Poem in Your Pocket Week." Students would have to wait for a teacher to ask them if they had a poem in their pocket, and if a teacher asked and they did have a poem in their pocket, the child would then reach in, pull the poem out, and read it to the teacher. Most of the poems were written by the children, and children seemed hopelessly stuck in the "make it rhyme" rut, and consequently many of the poems were dreadful. Nevertheless, the teacher would then reward the student with a "Poem in Your Pocket" slip that they would rush to the office, drop in a big box, and at the end of the day a couple of names would be drawn from it and those students would each win a book of poetry.

Many, many years ago I asked a little girl if she had a poem in her pocket. She enthusiastically said yes, quickly pulled out a piece of paper, and then proceeded to make a Broadway production out of carefully unfolding it, holding it up, clearing her throat, and then distinctly reading this poem:

"Now I lay me down to rest.
I pray I'll pass tomorrow's test.
But if I die before I wake,
That's one less test I have to take."

Then she looked up at me and gave me a melt-your-heart grin. I asked her if she had written it, and she replied that she had copied it from a book, but could she have a "Poem in Your Pocket" slip anyway. I gave her three slips, and at the end of the day listened for the announcements hoping to hear her name. She didn't win, despite complicity on my part.

I still remember her name. I think I always will.

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