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Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2006 05:54 pm

People's Poetry

Jacqueline Jackson presents

aroundtownpoem #15

no matter what anyone says
I’m glad I live on north
fifth street
the house is grand and in a
cloudburst
lincoln took shelter in the
foyer and
chatted with the builders
too bad he
didn’t carve his initials we’d
be in no
danger from the medical district
as it is
I’m surrounded by screaming
schoolkids
the art association is catty
corner and
my neighbor bernie across
the parking
lot has poured his heart and soul
into growing a garden so glorious
that the abled and disabled
the strollers with their strollees
the hopeless and the homeless
the dafties and the druggies
plus our aluminum can
snatcher
all pause before some head
on down
to st johns breadline

© Jacqueline Jackson 2006

In the fourth grade I sat next to a boy named Timothy who brought his dog’s gallstone for show-and-tell. Whenever we exchanged papers across the aisle for grading, Timothy’s was the paper I got to grade. It was appalling. I couldn’t believe it was possible for a person to fail so dramatically. Knowledge bounced off the boy like bullets off Superman. Years later, when my own son went to school, I discovered a painful reality: Not everybody learns the same things in the same way. My child is intelligent, thoughtful, and inquisitive. At 25 years old, he can quote Dr. Seuss, Eminem, and Shakespeare in the same sentence, but he still can’t always tell the difference between a “b” and a “d” or even a “d” and a “p.” He knows all the rules of grammar; he just can’t read. He called me recently to ask how to spell “demon.” I spelled it out over the phone. “D-E-M-O-N,” I told him. “OK,” he said, “but why? Why is it a long E?” Then he answered his own question. “There’s no reason,” he said. “I hate this language!” Sandra Kuizin McKenna teaches English at Millikin University, where she can’t always find reasons herself. She wrote the following poem. — Carol Manley, guest editor

Literacy

His arms are crossed
in relaxed defiance,
His dark eyes mock
and challenge me.

His mother is an addict.
Pale scars flower on his back
Gifts from a father’s scorching lessons.
His best friend died in a gunfight,
he fears for his baby sister still at home
knowing what happens to little girls
where he comes from.

Where he comes from,
I’m illiterate.

Sandra Kuizin McKenna teaches English composition, literature, and creative writing at Millikin University. She is the mother of two
wonderful daughters and five amazing grandchildren.

Send submissions to Jacqueline Jackson Presents People’s Poetry to poetry@illinoistimes.com or to Illinois Times, P.O. Box 5256, Springfield, IL 62705.

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