Jack & Jill

“Ring-a-ring o’ Love,
Why do you push and shove?
Tsk! Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!
Hands are for holding.”

Little Girl Gray,
Come, slow your breath;
The end’s far off from near,
And better than death.
But where is the boy,
Who looks after the end?

Jack’s gone to bed,
Pretending a bruise.
His tale is his to tell,
However he choose,
But history shows
His taste for vinegar.

Mother Goose

There was an old woman,
Lived beyond the field,
And if she’s not gone,
The pears still yield.

Aplenty for cobbler,
For custard and pie,
Plus some for the earth;
Live and let die.

She, too, will return,
From whence we all came,
Lay down as dropped fruit,
One and the same.

This Land is Our Land

fullsizeoutput_209How many watches had it been,
when I first caught sight of Paradise?

Seven – or is that the first digit
to come to mind?

Regardless, I would have kept kissing the dry land,
until it soaked in my sins,
had you not been
standing at my bower,
with tape
and parrot flowers.

The ship was splintered,
worse that any storm
or winter could do;
my lips, too.

Yet, I was fixed

on the mountains in the distance,
skirted in Doug Fir forest,
and decked with heavy fruits
(pear, apple, persimmon,
perpetually in season),
suspended in mist.

Never had I encountered a landscape,
as hard as it was soft,
particularly at the edges,
where rocky bluffs
terminate to sand,
and primrose grows
in mats that prick,
rather than provide respite
for the sick.

Yet, I was fixed

of the pain I had long-held,
from believing myself unhomeable
outside of childhood.

Or, perhaps, restored

to original condition:
an only daughter of an only parent,
(for which the treatment is
undivided affection
and absolute understanding).

How many men had it been,
when I first washed up on Paradise?

Seven – or is that the first digit
to come to mind?

Regardless, I would have kept gripping the shore,
until I was born into safety,
and then trained out of it again,
had you not offered more:

Your hand, a surrogate for my father.
Your land, for my Fatherland.

 

Walking in the Rain

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On a persistent basis,
it will penetrate
your psychology,
making water come
up from the ground,
down from the sky,
and side to side,
at the same time.

As if shaken,
by an unseen hand,
your eyes will twinkle,
and then fade to coal,
your arms will swing out,
into larger and larger circles,
and then snap, as if twigs.

Hello, snowwoman.
You are hotter
than you are meant to be.

Are you sweating
out a fever
or succumbing
to Spring?

Either way,
take care
to know
you are no more
contained to land.

When a mind becomes
flooded with thoughts
outside the body,
the ground beneath
your feet, themselves,
their wet shoes and socks,
their toes united
in commiseration;
they all fall down.

Once all ice is melted,
and run off to the seas,
take pride
to know
you helped reshape
the continents.

Shorelines
as round as your face,
as square as your elbow,
as it hailed a bus
some million years ago.

Answer “Yes,”
to one or more of the following questions,
and you may be a martyr:

Do you feel overburdened, overwhelmed, and physically exhausted, most of the time?
Do you feel underappreciated for all that you do?
Is your baggage heavier than everyone else?

You may be a martyr
or, otherwise, one
who has had enough
of walking for today,
and needs to collect
her thoughts,
lest she forget
that no one has yet
drowned by sweat
or a walk in the rain.

 

 

Signs

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When the pencil skirt fits,
but doesn’t sit
at the hips,
as does the cyclist,
who would rather
be caught dead
than with a bulge,
even if it’s just
an extra bunch
of fabric;
and so she walks,
in measured steps,
passing where
the sidewalk ends,
and then, drops off
into dirt,
until the final block,
where precision goes
to posture,
and so go the toes
– over the lip –
and then,
the heals,
and then,
one palm,
one knee,
and the
stack of crepes
planned to be
for everyone.

When the rice is simmering,
and asks for stirring,
just occasionally,
and so she drops
the wooden spoon,
takes up the sword,
and decides,
right then,
and there,
to prepare
kimchi
for winter,
which is yet
months away,
unlike the hand
on the timer,
which begets
a ten-second
countdown,
“Oh shit,”
and the other
on the blade,
“Oh shit,”
there is
salt
in a wound,
and it is time to move
back to the pot,
with rice searing
to its bottom.

When the appetite,
stirs the night,
she slips
to the cupboard,
looks in,
up, top,
middle,
bottom,
but sees nothing
with nearsighted eyes,
which is why,
her past self
put out
the one-half
cocoa-carob
energy bar,
on the counter,
where apparently
it is heir apparent
for ants play,
because something
tastes like
plus two grams
of protein,
and feels like
soda,
“Fizz,
boom,
pop!”
on her tongue.

When she arrives, at last,
not merely late
but also hungry,
and asking
for further
accommodation,
like a band aid,
a courtesy call,
a chance to sit,
it might be
a sign of immaturity,
or being irresponsible,
or at the end
of a misguided hike,
but more likely,
of the universal struggle,
of learning to live
outside the bubble,
where there
are new types
of pressure,
on the air,
to focus
on marks
in the floor,
to tune out
the sink of dirty dishes,
empty the mind,
and then,
get back to work.

Natural Interruptions

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When the Old Man fell,
it interrupted all scheduled programs,

including Britney’s 10th birthday party,
where I was one minute feeling,

to pin the tail on a donkey,

and then waiting,

to hear the sound

of a pin
falling.

Falling,
like ashes,
ashes
from the sky
in Oregon.

Fifteen years later,

children circle around me,
as if I were campfire,

to tell stories of their favorite hikes,
as if they happened yesterday.

 

I circle around what happened yesterday.

 

“Climate-Change-Fueled Wildfires

Pollute the Air, Make People Sick.

74 Acres, and Counting, Burning.”


The air thickens.

 

Upwards, the sky is gone.

We, too, are clouded

by emotion – Pride

in place, Resolve.

 

Quietly, I close my eyes.

I try to access

My Place,

My Trail,

My Childhood

interrupted, as they may be

by nature,

(the freeze and thaw)

and by choices
(to leave,

to have adventure,
to participate in activities
that exacerbate
the change).

These may have occurred
several times per year,
until the breaking point,
or in one dramatic season;
but, what difference does it make?

 

I have stopped trying,
to look through smoke,
to find the answer to:

“What is really happening?”

or even forecast

through the weekend.

Instead, I navigate

with the nose,

toward a little bit of sense,  

smelling
for what the present
has to offer,
by way of remembrance.

When the Old Man fell,
it fell on our plates,

of pizza and cake.

It stopped Britney’s mom

from slicing.
Leaving just enough

for one slice per child

– no seconds for anyone –

except I,

who grabbed two slices of pizza,

and two slices of cake,
because I was afraid.

Sequoia

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The sequoia stands so stately
that all humans ooh and ahh.

They have not seen the sun lately.
Above, birds hoot and caw,

knowing not where to find water.
Creatures cradled in her crown

can attest the climate hotter.
In ashes, most fall down.

Except she, who is too thick
to catch colds – let alone fire.

Her hardy bark, red as brick,
seems to announce something dire,

like: “If you don’t see me soon,
better send a search party,

or a rocket to the moon.”
Now, Sequoia, don’t have me croon.

When Men See a Face

When men see a face tear up,
their hands curl in,
the way one might ball
a tissue, glut with gum,
or something else soft.
They have nothing
to cry on
or hide.

When men see a face get small,
their hands get big,
as if to swat a fly,
if not block the sun
that attracts it.
They are repellant
and attractive.

When men see a face flood,
their hands open,
like floodgates, so calm,
in the palms, yet furious,
in the fingers,
where it counts,
five times
as much.

When men see a face speaking,
they go silent,
as if to say:
“Talk to the hand,
or just shut up,
if you know better.”

When men see a face sighing,
their hands do nothing,
so she sings to herself:
When the moon hits your eye,
like a big pizza pie,
that’s amore.

When men see a face
turn blue,
on the other hand,
their hands turn yellow,
imbued with the energy
of the sun; at last,
enlightened.

 

Do You See What I See? A Rural Transplant Guides Urban Youth into the Beauty of Their Place

What is a neighborhood?

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At the end of the unit, students added terms like tiny house, Biketown station, and community square to this list.

Houses. Families. Friends. Pets. Trees. Flowers. Shops. These were the most common responses by the 2nd and 3rd grade students of Trillium Charter School, at the beginning of an 8-week Geography unit centered on this question.

When I was their age, my teachers posed more straightforward questions like “What are the 50 states and their capitals?” AL – Montgomery,  AK – Juneau, AZ – Phoenix. Yet, I did not have the frame of reference to comprehend the totality of a city, let alone a whole state or nation.

Kids these days aren’t much different, because comprehension of size, scale, and spatial relations is more developmental than generational.  At ages 7-9, our world’s center is the place where we live, while its outermost limit is about a 1 mile radius, or the length of the route from home to school. Studying national or global geography, then, means matching unfamiliar names to unfamiliar flags, flowers, and animals.

By centering our curriculum on the neighborhood, I was able to teach concepts rather than facts, guiding students into the weeds of new urbanism. Examples of transit-oriented development, mixed-use development, creative placemaking, and urban farming lay just outside our doors, and so we went. Enter – the Overlook neighborhood. The best case study we could have asked for. No membership to Oregon Historical Society or Nat Geo required.

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This is a map of the points of interest students identified during the Green Space themed week of our study.

What made the unit all the more appropriate was the coincidence of its timing with May Bike/Walk to School Month. It kicked off with a pedestrian safety assembly with prizes provided by PBOT. Each of 3 classes took five walking field trips in Overlook, themed on Infrastructure, Green Space, Goods, Services, and Arts & Entertainment. At the end of the unit, students had identified 30 points of interest within walking distance of Trillium.

During the Infrastructure themed week, I instructed students to keep a tally of hazards specific to heavy congestion areas, such as cars parked on the sidewalk, construction zones, and any other factor that they felt threatened their safety. Ultimately, the most noted offender was litter, particularly broken glass and cigarette butts.

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Did you know that Trillium PTA meetings have free pizza? We saved this treasure for his exploration station.

This prompted an in-class discussion about public health and a brainstorm of ways to take it into our own hands. In partnership with the high school Leadership class, we organized Trillium Cleanup Day, timed to benefit attendees of the Vanport Mosaic Festival, hosted by our neighbor, the IFCC.

From our Green Space themed week, emerged the distinction between public and private land, thanks to Overlook residents Marci Macfarlane and Jan-Marc Baker. Marci described the process of transforming Portland Water Bureau property to park space, through a commitment to stewardship by artists in residence, herself included; which planted seeds of a Patton Square HydoPark in our minds. Jan Marc explained why he puts as much effort into tending the right of way as his

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The green space between the sidewalk and the street is city property, but adjacent homeowners often tend it.

front yard – because it provides public and environmental benefits, inviting hungry passersby and pollinators rather than let it lay dormant.

Next, we learned about land for commercial use, spending 2 weeks surveying Overlook businesses, separating them into goods and services, and categories within each. ICYMI, home goods predominate (Miller Paint, Harbor Freight Tools, Interstate Flooring), as do medical and educational services (Providence, Kaiser, Carpe Diem, Sensory Kids).

Students identified Hobbies Unlimited and Patton Maryland as the best businesses for families. Gree, who lives in the neighborhood, goes to Hobbies Unlimited all the time. In his final reflection, he wrote: “I once got an agate rock that is from the Columbia River. It is really big and has flat parts.”

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Rick explained that the store has had an ongoing problem with theft which is why they utilize several security cameras.

After a long career driving for Trimet, Hobbies’ new owner, Rick, was glad to step in at a critical moment in its eighty year history. He used to visit when he was a child, and knows that community engagement, particularly with youth groups, will be key to keeping the lights on for the decades to come.

Molly, Irma and Mihai wrote about Patton Maryland. “It is not one of those big restaurants like McDonald’s. They have food for all eaters, vegans, and vegetarians. The menu is inspired by the foods the manager

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Patton Maryland features an outdoor patio with fire pits and corn hole. These amenities cater to patrons with children.

 remembers his mom making when he was a kid. He gave us each a pork sandwich and chocolate milk to try. We rated it five stars.” General Manager, Mark Hernandez, was kind enough to send students back with coupons for staff. Now, I can say that I rate it five stars, too!

In the absence of theaters and music venues, our Arts & Entertainment themed week focused on public art. Pascale, who lives in the neighborhood, reflected “My neighborhood has a lot of public art, which is great, because it brings community together. People sometimes need a reason to come together.” I sent one group North on Interstate, to view pieces in the Trimet Public Art Program at Killingsworth Station, Ockley Green Middle School, and Rosa Parks Station.

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Adriene Cruz and Valerie Otani celebrated the vibrant multiculturalism of the community with colorful patterns that recall African cloth.

On their way, the once community hub now construction zone, Interstate Lanes, stopped everyone in their [Max] tracks. Many had had birthday parties and other family memories at the lanes. We looked at the NO TRESPASSING signs and couldn’t help but chuckle at where someone had written I LOVE BOWLING. Back in class, a debate on the differences between graffiti and public art would ensue. It would not be the last. At the end of the unit, I divided students into groups and asked them to design their own “great” neighborhoods.

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Today’s fans of bowling, tomorrow’s fans of Bowling Alone. Thankfully, the community engagement of Portland youth is thriving.

Just like a real neighborhood association, they were asked to strike a balance between what their community members would need and what they would want, before making final development decisions. Ultimately, there were still a handful of candy and toy stores. What makes a great neighborhood? Tiny House. Biketown Station. Community Square. Weird Stuff. Can you tell they go to school in Overlook? Stay tuned for the release of our Guide to the Overlook Neighborhood for Youth & Families and this article in Overlook Views.

 

 

Red

written by Eva, Romeo and Ollie in Michael’s 4th & 5th grade classroom
edited and illustrated by Kayla Kennett

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Red is the color of
a ripe cherry,
falling
from a tree;

cinnamon candy,
sizzling
on your tongue;

a lobster,
drifting
in the ocean.

Red is the color of
a red panda,
climbing
a bamboo tree;

an apple
on a branch;

pepperoni pizza,
melting
in your mouth.

Red is the color of
lava,
engulfing homes
and,
unfortunately,
people.