People have always looked at portraits; and the painters and photographers who create them are praised when the images they create are recognizable as close replicas of real people. In a frozen moment in time, their images are made immobile on canvas or film. Like their visual counterparts, a poem can be a portrait as well. And Ms. Ortiz’s third graders at Barrington Elementary will make you check your definition of what makes a good portrait. Their poems are all movement: building image upon image into a burst of imagination that becomes a poem that then becomes portrait. Their poems are portraits of things we’ve never seen: talking sour tattoos, creepy tornadoes, and romantic banana splits. Their poems are self-portraits— “I’m a sound hearing another sound”— where it’s clear that the poet is “creating” a self (not trying to arrange words in an exact likeness). Or at least, not in a likeness we might expect.
I'm a Pickle with Underpants
I’m a bird with the head of a dog.
I’m a zombie with the eyes of a duck.
I’m a monkey with the head of a tomato.
I’m a fish flying in the sea.
I’m a monster eating a cookie.
I’m an armadillo with the ears of a bunny.
I’m a zombie with a broken hand.
The Creepy Watermelon
The creepy watermelon was creepy because it walked and talked but had no face. It talked by shooting seeds and walked with a green sock and one shoe. It was also creepy because it had one mouth and one eye.
The Sour Tattoo
There was a sour tattoo that said “You too” all the time. He said what you said to him. He said “You too” and some people didn’t understand why he said it all the time. One day, a creepy gorilla said, “Hi,” and when the gorilla said, “Hi,” the tattoo said, “Shy.” The gorilla didn’t understand. Then there was a romantic lipstick. She said, “I am shy,” so the sour tattoo said, “The sky too,” but the lipstick didn’t understand. Then a lazy taco said, “Hi my friend,” and the tattoo said, “Hi my send,” and the taco didn’t understand . . . until a scientist came and all the people were saying they didn’t understand the sour tattoo, he said a lot of things that were weird. The tattoo said he loved rhymes—that’s why everything he said was a rhyme. After that, all the people said rhymes.
The Lonely Watermelon (an excerpt)
A lonely watermelon was in a refrigerator. The watermelon was so sad because she wanted people (like a family) to eat her, but no one wanted to eat her because days had passed and she tasted bad. She cried all day.
The watermelon escaped from the refrigerator and went walking to the supermarket and found the watermelon section and climbed in and stayed there until someone got her and took her to his house. The man smelled the watermelon and said, “This smells bad, I’m not eating this watermelon.”
El gorila peludo
Había un gorila que vivía en la selva. Tenía mucho pelo. Era un problema. Un día, fue con su amigo a que lo ayude, y su amigo le dijo que no se avergüence de su pelo porque el pelo sirve para calentarse.
“Todos tenemos pelo,” le dijo su amigo. “Somos diferentes en el tamaño y en la voz.”
El gorila peludo ya no se avergonzó de su pelo, y se salió y volvió a su casa.
The Hairy Gorilla
There was a gorilla who lived in the jungle. He had a lot of hair. It was a problem. One day, he went out with his friend so his friend could help him, and his friend told him to not be embarrassed of his hair because hair keeps us warm.
“We all have hair,” said the hairy gorilla’s friend. “We’re all different sizes and have different voices.”
The hairy gorilla wasn’t ashamed of his hair anymore, and he left and went back home.
The Slimy Tacos
I was so hungry. I wanted to eat, so I went to buy some tacos. I ordered them. In a couple minutes, they gave me the tacos and they were slimy, but I said, “I need to eat them,” and I ate them. The next day, I went back and told them about my slimy tacos. I said they hadn’t made them good like they do a lot of the time. They told me the tacos were slimy because they’d put jelly on them.
The Creepy Tornado
Here comes the creepy tornado! When it comes, it doesn’t do any damage. Everyone’s happy except the creepy tornado because he wants to destroy things.
(When he comes, the creepy tornado wants to destroy things and make people not be happy about him.)
But for people, the tornado’s not-destroying power makes him unique. Now the tornado feels unique, too.
I'm a Pizza Pig
I’m a dog coloring.
I’m a monster walking in a little house.
I’m a paper eating a jellybean.
I’m a ship that eats fish.
I’m a car flying in the sky.
I’m a pencil crying because a person broke me.
I’m a fireman taking a shower in the bathtub.
I’m a ball with black hair.
I’m a monkey eating ice cream.
I’m a funny folder that talks too much.
I’m a sock talking to people—I say I’m a caterpillar.
I'm a Sound Hearing Another Sound
I’m Spiderman swimming in lava.
I’m Superman eating a big chicken.
I’m a penguin falling on Austin.
I’m a superdog eating a big pancake.
I’m a pizza eating another pizza with pickles.
I’m a flower smelling another flower.
I’m a cat eating a big lion-headed tomato.
I’m a chicken eating my mommy.
I’m a soda drinking my own soda.
El gorila desaparecido
Un día, un gorila quería cazar animales, y fue muy lejos y se perdió por algún lado. Estaba triste porque no sabía a donde salir, y habían muchos árboles, y plantas también.
The Missing Gorilla
One day, a gorilla wanted to hunt, and he went very far and got lost somewhere. He was sad because he didn’t know where to go and there were many trees, and plants, too.
The Creepy Hurricane
He’s creepy because he destroys everything.
People hate the creepy hurricane because he creeps them out. He’d be scarier if he had a taco with salsa on it, but he doesn’t.
The creepy hurricane gets confused. After he scares people at the factory, he eats a taco, and he turns scarier and scarier.
In the end, he isn’t scary anymore because there are no more tacos.
I'm a Chair Sitting on Another Chair
I’m a flower kicking another flower.
I’m a pizza dancing.
I’m a pencil writing.
I’m a monkey going to swim.
I’m a bee eating cake.
I’m gelatin fighting with another gelatin.
I’m a boat dancing.
I’m a ladybug playing with rowboats.
I’m a leaf eating cake.
I’m a chupacabra, so so happy.
I’m a shoe with a sock in my mouth.
I’m a backpack with water inside.
Soy gelatina corriendo en la calle
Soy un conejito buscando mis zanahorias.
Soy un pajarito volando por el cielo.
Soy un duende escondiéndome en los pastizales.
Soy un caballo corriendo por el campo.
Soy una persona ordeñando la vaca para tomarnos la leche.
Soy un dragón nadando en un volcán.
Soy una culebra buscando ratones en las casas.
Soy un conejo porque me encanta saltar.
Soy un tiburón porque me encanta comer personas y animales y otras cosas.
I'm Jell-O Running in the Street
I’m a bunny looking for my carrots.
I’m a little bird flying through the sky.
I’m an elf hiding in the pasture.
I’m a horse running through the country.
I’m a person milking a cow so we can drink milk.
I’m a dragon swimming in a volcano.
I’m a snake searching for mice in the houses.
I’m a rabbit because I love to hop.
I’m a shark because I love to eat people and animals and other things.
The Lost Taco
One day a taco was walking down the street. He walked a lot, and he got lost. The lost taco was so busy walking he didn’t know he was lost. Then he noticed a danger sign with a dog on it. That’s when he realized he was lost.
“Uh-oh,” said the taco, “my tasty tortilla is burning.”
He just wanted to be found.
The lost taco was finally found, and he didn’t get eaten because of his burned tortilla. And because the meat, lettuce, tomato, and lemon inside his tortilla was burned, too. He was happy he didn’t get eaten.
He said, “I’m lucky the tortilla burned and all the stuff inside me burned, too.”
After that, he went to the yard and drank a cold cup of tasty lemonade. And he lived so happily—burned, but never eaten.
La sirena boca abajo
En la escuela, le llamaban La Sirena Boca Abajo. Nadie le quería porque era una sirena curiosa. Ella tenía una amiga, pero su amiga tenía la cabeza muy grande y un cuello largo, y le llamaban Cabeza Arrugada. Tenía las manos como aletas.
The Upside-Down Mermaid
At school, they called her Upside-Down Mermaid. No one loved her because she was a strange mermaid. She had a friend, but her friend had a really big head and a long neck, and they called her Wrinkly Head. She had hands like fins.
I'm a Butterfly in a Lollypop
I’m a bear sleeping in Africa.
I’m a piece of gum swimming in a swimming pool.
I’m a little chicken in Antarctica.
I’m a crazy singing flower.
I’m a broken crayon in a teacher.
I’m an empty box in a window.
I’m a swimming pool inside a dog.
I’m a carnival inside a carnival.
The Confused Dancer
The confused dancer didn’t know what to dance. Did that stop him? No! He went on stage and danced everything—salsa, hip-hop, tango! He won the silver medal and broke the record for most dances danced in two hours—forty dances!
The Romantic Banana Split
There was a romantic banana split. He went to find a true love. She (his true love) went to the disco to eat. One day, she found her true love (the romantic banana split). They married each other.
The Hairy Hurricane
The hairy hurricane didn’t want to be hairy. Every time he made wind, he only made his hair fly. He couldn’t make anything else fly. He wanted to cut his hair because it always flew everywhere and destroyed everything. He asked his mom and she said he couldn’t.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because I don’t have scissors,” she said.
I'm a Whale Who Goes on a Field Trip to the Alamo
I’m a chocolate monster who eats a lot of chocolate.
I’m a famous soccer player who doesn’t like to play soccer.
I’m a giant in a tiny school.