The Power of Imagination

Students of Ms. Nudelman’s second grade class at Highland Park Elementary School know how to convert their wild imaginations into brilliant poetry. Some imagine themselves as books seeking shelter among shelves and cherishing the words they have to tell. Others imagine themselves as french fries that love being dipped in ketchup, or cupcakes with the power to provide happiness in every child’s heart. Some of these poets don’t imagine themselves as anything at all, but use their imaginations to defeat their biggest fear, to show their pets how much they love them, and to create work that reminds us of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous “Sonnet 43“. It’s hard to imagine that these poems were written by second graders, but we’ll just have to ignore our imaginations on this one, and let the reality and brilliance of it sink in.

The Strike of a Blade

A terrorizing scream
Scream fills my ears
The excruciating pain is unbearable
My heart beats faster as I see my fear
A white ghost
Walking in the moonlight
My eyes widen
My body shakes with fright
I scream and run from the room
I panic
My head spins
I feel that I am trapped in doom
The ghost floats in
I start to run
But she giggles and grins
I feel I’ve mistaken her terribly wrong
But there’s a poof!
And she is gone



Sorrow falls over me
As I look out the window
Those sad, dark clouds
Thinking of the hiding deer
I hear the rain go pitter-patter
Louder, louder, then Boom!
I look at the temperature
Thirty degrees, it could snow
Thinking of the frozen little deer
I hear footsteps at my door
I look out, a deer
I go inside to get a blanket
Better, better still
Sorrow falls over me
Though I am grateful
Grateful for who I am
Grateful for a roof
Tears in my eyes
Rolling down my cheek
The sorrow won’t leave ’til it’s over
Sitting there waiting
Sorrow falls over me
Finally it stops
I am fine
So are the deer


The Birds

Birds chirp in a nest sounds like a song.
I’m glad it’s not big, loud bongs.
The tree is old.
The birds get cold.
They are on the ground.
They hear a pound.
The little ones play with berries.
The birds thought about getting shot.
They said they should stay in the nest
with the rest.
They should be the best.
They jump up like a cup!



I’m a simple, basic dog.
Watching out the door.
Waiting, waiting for you to get home,
so you will play with me
and maybe drop some food.
I’m white with black dots
and a very furry tail
and a purple collar and leash.
At dinnertime I stand by your chair
and wait for falling chicken.
Finally, I’m at the foot of your bed.
You are sleeping soundly.
Me, I’m almost asleep, when boom!
Your mom comes to get me.
I’m starting to not love that woman as much.


Ned’s Tongue

Slimy and disgusting
I’ll never touch it again
It’s annoying
It’s gross
I’ll never touch it again
It’s bad
It’s pink
I’ll never touch it again
I like it
I don’t like it
I can’t decide
It makes my head spin
Now I can decide
I just don’t get it
I’ll never touch it again
Weird and squishy
I’ll never touch it again
I told you it’s gross
It’s not a nose
It’s Ned’s tongue



If I were a cupcake, I would be BIG and very chocolaty, full of little confetti and icing two inches high. I would be inside a box with twenty cupcakes just like me. Go to Costco and you will see. I would be waiting day and night until somebody buys me for a big party. Then, faster than you can say, “chocolate cupcake with confetti sprinkles,” I will be gone. I will have a very short life, but I will like it. My dream would be to see a very happy heart that Cupid would fly to and make happiness come to life in every child’s heart. Loneliness would go away for every little person. This is part of my BIG dream!


I Love Louie

Soft fur tickling me,
a small blue tag
peeking through a sea of
brown curls.
My dog Louie the poodle.
He swims,
he plays with me,
he is my favorite pet.
I love him.


My Fear

I have a fear of bloody murder by a scary monster.
It’ll tear me up to bits before I can hide,
but my duckies will protect me day and night
in my room and in the house.
They protect me with my love and salty tears.
If they were not there, I’d soon be saying goodbye!



Pattering footsteps on the roof
Rain is falling oh so very fast
Plink, plink, plink
Rain is falling
Looks like teardrops falling from your face
Tastes like fresh spring water
Sounds like footsteps walking toward you
Feels like water from a shower
Smells like a wet plant growing very quickly
Rain stopped falling
All is quiet


Library Book

I am a book.
People read me every day.
My home is the library where I play.
I play hide and seek,
Where kids look for me on shelves.
I hide among my book cousins,
Having so much fun.
My leather cover holds onto the words
I have to tell,
I love living in the library
With a sweet lavender smell.


A Book

I am a book
A plain brown book
I have two hundred pages
Every day somebody reads me
People throw me on the ground
When they’re done reading me
People color on me
Draw on me
People don’t care
If I rip or tear
I see other books being put on shelves
I feel sad people don’t care
I hope people will take better care of me


French Fry

I am a simple french fry.
I have a French accent.
I am a yellow fellow.
I do not like Jell-o.
I like swimming in the thing
people call the french fry basket.
I love to be dipped in ketchup.


The Riddle

you twist it
and you stretch it
you throw it
you catch it
if you shape it like a circle
you would think it is a miracle
it is a…
(finish yourself)


Oddie the ????

I am a sweet, sweet, sweet treat
That you can eat with a sprinkle of heat
The glaze of sweet pink frosting
I have rainbow sprinkles
I have a hole
What am I?


How Do I Love

How do I love
I love you and me
I love everything that love can be
I love Willow, Jack, Nathan, and Kim
I even love Milo yes I love him
I love purple ribbons blue blossoms green leaves
I love everything that love can be
Kim wears glasses
Nathan has none
They’ll clap and clap for me
When my poem is done



smoothly run across the yard
when you’re tired
you may sit
I love you Lola

you can read
you can climb
you are my tree

you tell the time
you are water proof
you are my watch

fluffy tail
fluffy cheeks
you are a squirrel

smoothly go across the water
I can steer and flip and jump
I love you my wakeboard



I am little, furry and fluffy
My owners give me care
They make me very happy
When they brush and comb my hair
I fear cats that want to scratch me
I try to tell them to let me be
But those cats they just don’t listen
So my owner comes to help me
I dream to be able to do lots of tricks
I give my owners lots of licks
They love me with all of their heart
They bring me everywhere in a cart
They bring me to the grocery store
Pet Smart, restaurants, even more
I love my owners, yes I do
They love me back, it’s really true



When I was awake.
I felt an awful shake.
It was an earthquake.
I started to ache.
An earthquake tastes like cake.



Wind in your hair
Speeding through the air
Do tricks on a bike
Nothing like a hike
Look at all the sights
Only bike when it’s light
I like doing tricks
I never use toothpicks
Biking is fun
I do it in the sun



Penguins have feet
that look like orange chicken feet.
Their bodies look like
a big, white eagles egg.
The wings look like
bridges that are black.
The heads look like
a white bowling ball.
Their eyes look like
frog eggs.
Their beaks look like
a pyramid the wrong way.
Penguins are awesome and cute!


My Doll

I love my tiny doll.
We like to play ball.
I love it when we play everyday.
Our sister’s birthday is in May.
We like it when we sleep together.
We love feathers.
She rides her horse.
I help her, of course.
We go on a trip.
Then we eat carrots and dip.
We don’t like otters!
We are the oldest daughters.
We are always happy together.
Our favorite color is purple.
I love my doll!



Plastic and smooth
Sharp and bitey
Crooked and straight
Sitting there doing nothing
Very white and plain
Goes in your mouth
Do you know what it is?


The Stormtrooper's Satin

Today we continue our series of responses to Badgerdog writers’ poems and stories with “The Stormtrooper’s Satin,” by Zakary, a fourth grader at Metz Elementary. The tone of this poem, the darkness lurking, the conflict that ends in never going to the moon, is perfectly rendered in Amy Butcher’s recording.

The Stormtrooper’s Satin

The stormtrooper wears a satin dress and wants to be the man on the moon. He wants to know how it feels to be in space. But the problem is the government won’t let him be the man on the moon because the dress is so hideous. It’s purple and pink, and he’s kind of old (eighty-one) and wrinkly and very tall. The government tells him to take off the dress, and they’ll let him be the man on the moon. So he takes it off. But it grows back because it got so stuck to him because the dress thought he would look good in it. He gets so tired of it, he sets himself on fire. After the fire’s over, the dress finally comes off, but the stormtrooper’s dead! So there’s a funeral, and people, looking very curious, ask why he’s dead. They find out it’s because the government didn’t let him go to the moon.

Zakary, fourth grade,  Metz Elementary School


Zakary was in a Badgerdog workshop during the 2010–2011 school year at Metz Elementary.

Amy Butcher is a recent graduate of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa and will join Colgate University this fall as the 2012–2013 Olive B. O’Connor fellow. She’s the managing editor for Defunct Magazine and her recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Indiana Review, the Colorado Review, Brevity and Hobart, among others.

Bored Poem

“Bored Poem,” written by Nathaniel from Bluebonnet Trail Elementary in Manor ISD, is infamous.  In all the best ways.  When our Education Programs coordinator, Jess Stoner, sent it along to her writer-friends, they clamored at the opportunity to respond to it in a myriad of ways.  Today, we’re featuring an audio recording of Nathaniel’s poem by Eugene Cross, the award-winning fiction writer (and fan of tacos?).

Bored Poem

Taco taco taco taco taco taco
taco taco taco taco taco taco
taco taco taco taco taco taco
said the taco to the Devil Taco
from the Taco Bell that is by the Walmart
that is in a mall that is very boring
to lots of people. And I am the only one
in my family that cares. The place is very boring.
And I said to my family that they are boring
too, ’cus they never go outside. But Taco
just likes to stab all the other tacos,
especially the Devil Taco, because he’s gangster
and was always very mad, and standing there
bored out of his taco-mind, bored with his brother
with his burrito-breath and his nasty teeth,
and bored too with his own self, his t-shirt
you know the one with the air-brushed wolf on it.

Nathaniel, fourth grade, Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School

*This poem was also featured at The Good Men Project.


NATHANIEL is a fourth grader at Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School.

EUGENE CROSS is the author of the short story collection Fires of Our Choosing (our now from Dzanc). He was born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania, and received an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. His stories have appeared in Narrative magazine (which named him one of “20 Best New Writers” and his story “Harvesters” a “Top Five Story of 2009–2010”), American Short Fiction, Story Quarterly, TriQuarterly, and Callaloo, among other publications. His work was also listed among the 2010 Best American Short Stories’ 100 Distinguished Stories. He is the recipient of scholarships from the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the winner of the 2009 Dzanc Prize for Excellence in Literary Fiction and Community Service. He currently lives in Chicago where he teaches in the Fiction Department at Columbia College Chicago. You can find him online at

Color Is Everything

Color—it’s one of the most powerful images used in poetry and literature—for it can signify a taste, a smell, a certain mood, etc. Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is one example of the important work color can do. Gilman’s description of the yellow of the yellow wallpaper means everything to the story. Ms. Pappert’s second grade poets at Highland Park Elementary are experts at demonstrating the wondrous, surprising work colors can do.  In their poems are hot colors and yellow airplanes, and there is purple quiet. But their poems do more too; to keep the colors company, there are “nomadic” cereal bowls and honey stars. What strikes us most about the poems is the balance of how things are defined (through color, through specific detail) but also how things can be defined by what they are not.  We could try to explain more about what we mean, but we think you’ll see it perfectly as you peruse these lively poems.  


Hot Colors

This is a red leaf
on a big sun
over a hot ground.
This is a bowl
on a leaf
over an orange table.

But it is not a half sun.


The Shape

This is a swimming pool
floating in the sky
over some grass.
Or this is a building
floating in space
over a garden.

But it is not a green star.


The Honey Star

This is a hexagon shape
in space very dark
over delicious grape juice
This is a hexagon shape
in a blue star
over purple lightning.

But it is not purple paper.

Logan D.

The Red Watermelon

This is a watermelon
on a blue smooth table
over a purple quiet beach
Or this is a purple strawberry
on a blue smooth ocean
over purple shirts.
But it is not cupid.


The Watermelon

This is a red watermelon
on a blue napkin

over green grass.
But it is not a book.


The Pizza at Dinner

This is a pizza
on an orange tablecloth
over a poster.
But it is not the moon.



This is a red trapezoid
in the yellow sky
over orange cuts of apple
This is a red trapezoid
in the orange jello
over a sunshine yellow table
But it is not a red circle.


The Red Triangle

This is a red triangle
on a blue background
over a purple napkin.
This is a little dark red triangle
on an aqua blue background
over a violet purple napkin
But it is not a dark red triangle
on a light blue background
over a light purple napkin.

Sami D.

Water Saucer

This is a flying saucer
in a blue galaxy
flying over a green planet
or a yellow fish in blue water
over a green planet
But it is not a star.


The Purple Ground

This is a watermelon
in the sky
over a pencil sharpener
This is an eraser
on the ground
over a piece of paper
But it is not a pencil


Yellow Airplane

This is an airplane
in the air
over the grass
This is a light
in the night sky
over the big green slimy pond
But it is not a raindrop.


The Yellow Sunset

This is a setting sun
in a yellow sky
over an ocean
or a flare in the sky.
But it is not a UFO


Is It a Diamond?

This is a red diamond
on a blue background
over a purple bottom
or it is a red jewel on top
of a blue table over a
purple rainbow
But it is not a watermelon.


Purple Mystery

This is a purple orange
on a red table
over water

this is a purple apple
in lava
over blueberries
But it is not a devil


But It Is Not …

This is a nomadic cereal bowl
on a sun
over a soft pad of grass
This is a half snowball
on a piece of wallpaper
over a green carpet

But it is not half moon!



This is a pyramid shape
on an orange background
over a lemonade bottom
or it is a roof top
or it is half a book
but it is not a finger sandwich

Sami G.

Raindrop Raindrop

This is a blue raindrop
on a cloud
over an ocean
or land
or underground
but it is not a book.


Red Triangle

This is a triangle shape
on a dark night
It is a blue. Why?
Because it is a dark night.
In the bottom it is purple
for underground
but it is not a diamond and it is not a square.


Where Every Lego Is Free

The country of Ms. Collins’ second grade class at Highland Park Elementary School has a diverse population: there are crazy grandmas, the stinky (but loved) feet of those grandmas, badgers, and colors that smell like penguins. In the country of Ms. Collins’ class, every lego is free and friends give each other flowers.  In the country of Ms. Collins’ class are the glittering imaginations of creative, caring young poets.


Crazy Grandma

Crazy Grandma is super crazy.
She bites Elvis
and Elvis screams, “Geez!
Crazy Grandma is crazy!”


The Life-Size

I am a life-size head.
I am a life-size loco head with bananas.
I am a big fat loco freckle with a banana.
I am a window with skunks.
I am a loco loco lopo loco.
I am a lilo lilo life-size ant.
I am a po po po po po banana.


Her Flower

Sydney’s flower is pretty.
She loves it.
She puts it in her vase
because it is so, so, so pretty.
It is a rose that is red.
It has a beautiful stem.
The stem is green.
I gave the flower to Sydney.

Zoe B.

Badger Bob

Why does Badger Bob not wear

When will mimes start to be
like real people?

Why does Frank look
like a frog?

Why does Bobby Joe
step on yellow snow?

Who has an arm that’s
an inch long?

Why can’t aliens be like

If I move to a different
home, will I cry?


Her Feet

Grandma’s feet smell like a dump.
Sometimes she makes me want to throw up.
Everyday I massage her feet.
It feels like my hands are a piece of dried meat.
Everyday I put so much lotion on her feet
to make them smell better,
but everyday I think they get worse.
Sometimes I want to cut off her feet,
but my mom says, “That would be mean.”
Instead of going to school,
I sit down and massage her feet—it’s so cruel.
Now I wish to go to school.



It smells like a penguin
flying through the water.
It feels like a smooth,
wet flipper.
It sounds like the splash
of the water.
It tastes like a cold snowball
made by the penguin.



It tastes like an orange
from California.
It feels like a sweet, juicy apple
lying in the sun.
It smells like a lily pad
floating in the water.
It sounds like the nice wind
blowing in the evergreen trees.


Sky Blue

It smells like
birds flying in
the sky. It feels
like Neptune in
my backyard.
It sounds like
the blue ocean
making a lot
of sounds and
splashes. It
tastes like
blueberry cake.


In the Country of Crazy Things

There are crazy
fishies that are

It smells like
chocolate and

You can see
burgers walking.

You can see
spiders that
look like ants
with eight legs.


Grandma Elvis

Grandma Elvis sings on the stage.
She doesn’t wear anything.
She falls off the stage
and cracks open her head
and all her teeth fall out.
She is watched
by her boyfriend Bynard.
She is Grandma Elvis.


Beautiful Feet

Oh, beautiful feet!
People say they stink.
To me, they are just a sight.
I think they were brought
from space. I hope they stay
forever so I can make
a sculpture of them.



It smells like a hungry wolf on a mountain.
It feels like soft, fuzzy fur.
It sounds like a growling animal.
It tastes like icy hair.

Zoe L.

Dancing in Massachusetts

Massachusetts was tired
of standing there and standing there,
so one day, it decided to dance.
For us, it was an earthquake,
but to Massachusetts,
it was just dancing like crazy.


In the Country of Talking Dandelions

Big talking dandelions.

People on the dandelion leaves listening
and laughing at the dandelions’ stories.



I am an asteroid
that is a giant meatball.
I am Superman
who runs into the Empire State Building,
and it falls on him and he dies.
I am a fish that gets eaten by another fish,
and that fish is eaten by a big fish.
I am a giant pair of green pants with holes in them
that nobody wears.
I am an apple with worms, cockroaches, and crickets.


Dog with a Yucky Eyeball

I had a dog with a yucky eyeball.
(I spilled mac and cheese
on his eye.) I went to Walmart
to find a clean eyeball.
I took the yucky one out
and put a clean one in.


Fat Bob Marley

For Bob’s breakfast,
he had sausage, pancakes,
bacon, donuts,
cereal, orange juice,
milk, water,
and apple juice!
Oh! So that’s how he got so fat!


In the Country Where Every Lego Is Free

A dragon that is 5,682 pieces.
A giant that is 10,252 pieces.
I am the protector of the village.



It sounds like a drum pounding
in Japan.
It feels like Ms. Collins’s
warm hugs.


The Places Poems Make

Ms. Marques’s second grade poets at Highland Park Elementary School disappeared into new territories during their Badgerdog workshop this spring. With their instructor, Cara Zimmer, they created and then inhabited jungles where there’s sour pickles; they became adventure ducks and the color aquamarine; and they invented what sounds like the most beautiful place: a country where everyone laughs, even babies.  To read these poems is to remember to pay attention: there are opportunities for discovery and invention everywhere.

A Highland Park Elementary writer's collected poems



In the Country of Dog Snort

In the country of Dog Snort,
dogs live with snorting,

and puppies are snorting
and are born from their mom.

No people or cats
live there,
and all the other animals,
they don’t live there.

People always want to be
the first to
discover it.

know about it because they
hear their mom and dad talking about it.


In the Country of Frank

A Paul Frank in a
rainforest that
shakes up and down
where people get water.

The valley of a big, fat person
on a little, tiny rock.


In the Country of Marshmallow City

In Marshmallow City
you see hopping marshmallows
that have big eyes and teeth.
They live in tissue box holes—
to make the tissue box holes
not smell bad, the marshmallows
spray perfume. Their houses
are very purrrty. They have pink
houses and polka-dotted lamps.
Their rugs are very furry.
Their roofs are pointy, like
a castle. The marshmallows
look like Mario fish markers.
Dogs bark when they see
these hideous marshmallows.


Jungle Pickle

Way down deep
in the jungle
there is a man-eating
sour pickle. It is so strong
it can rip you in


Big Fat Dumb Dog

I am a big fat dumb dog
who goes to the bathroom
and runs into walls
and destroys the water.
I am years old
and I am a ninja who wears hobo clothes
and destroys buildings
and eats dogs.
I am cocoa from Cocoa Puffs
that smashes books
and doesn’t have a tongue.


In the Country of Laughing People

No one could talk
because they were
laughing too much.

They even laughed
when they drank a cup of tea.

And even if you
lived somewhere else
and then moved there,
you laughed.

They laughed when
they went to bed.

Can you believe that even
the babies laughed?


In the Country of Whosamawhatsa

The Whosamawhatsa country
does not know anything.

They do not like flies.
That’s the only thing they know.

The Whosamawhatsas
have a fort around their

The Whosamawhatsas
are pretty

The Whosamawhatsas
always say “Whosamawhatsa.”


In the Country of Time

You’ll see the most ancient temples,
scrolls, and the best historical events
ever. You’ll see Jesus. You’ll see
D-Day. You’ll see George Washington
and meet Abe Lincoln. You’ll join
the union. You’ll team up with
General Eisenhower. You’ll board
the Titanic. You’ll help Harriet
Tubman escape from the South.
You’ll help Robert D. Ballard find
the Titanic. You’ll help Dr. King
win the Nobel Peace Prize.
You’ll join SEAL Team Six
to assassinate Osama bin Laden,
and finally, you’ll join the Americans
in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


In the Country of Pokémon

You’ll see a Pokémon
getting murdered
by Brock.

Zoo bats

spitting water
out everywhere.

Bug-type buzzing
and annoying


In the Country of Bananas and Other Fruit

You see it—the first part of the land
is an apple and a coconut.

You see bananas.

A bathtub with a banana
and a monkey in it.

You see a coconut,
an apple, and a monkey.

Banana, peach, orange,
pear, strawberry, raspberry,
blueberry, and the grand fruit—
the tomato!


In the Country of Fashion

Everyone wears sparkly clothes,
even to sleep.

And everyone has a pet.
Even their hair is sparkly.

Kids don’t have to go to school
because they know everything already.

Everyone has long hair.
The fish have one hundred colors on them.

But as normal as it seems, it’s not.


Adventure Duck

I am a duck that killed a lion
and stayed in jail for a year
and walked the plank
and went skydiving and disco dancing
and dodged cannon balls
and was buried
and killed ten ducks
and fired a gun
and was in a UFO
and was locked in a chest
and won a boxing fight.



It feels like a starfish
and smells like sea salt.
It tastes like a gummy butterfly.
It sounds like rushing water
hitting against rocks.


Food That Runs

Why does the hot dog
run away to the park?

Can a Lego talk
to a human with a bucket?

Do you know how to talk
to a window?

Does a can walk on the plane
to get ice cream?

Can milk make a cake
for a birthday?

Why does a ketchup bottle
run to a hot dog?


The Cardboard Fish

The cardboard fish hates math, reading,
and spelling, but it loves BADGERDOG!
In fact, its favorite subject is BADGERDOG.
When it’s not in BADGERDOG, it won’t even
move—it just sings “La, La, La, La, La.”
It will only do BADGERDOG. It


Exploding Icky Jellybean

Exploding icky jellybean in my mouth—
it’s so icky
it’s sticky
like a piece of gum.



Why don’t scissors
wear out ice cream?

Who has a phone who
can call aliens?

Can fish pick
their noses?

Can markers
blow bubbles?

Why can’t
pencils fly?

Can a spaceship
peel a banana?

Is there a flag that
stands for green beans?

If there were a kangaroo who
couldn’t jump, where would he live?

Is there a trumpet that
blows carrots instead of sound?

Do donkeys
eat clocks?

How do you put
your pants on?



It tastes like gold licorice with black lines.
It sounds like a rock paintball.
It feels like a sledgehammer.
It sounds like an angry chipmunk.
It tastes like the Transformer bumblebee.


The Simultaneity, the Interior Space, of "Mis suenos"

When we sent out an email, asking writer-friends from around the country to read and respond to our Badgerdog students’ writing, we figured they’d be interested, excited even.  It turns out this was a huge understatement.  For the next few months, we’ll be posting commentary, videos, and recordings of our Badgerdog students’ poems and stories … by writers from around the country (and the world!).

Today, we’re featuring a poem—”Mis suenos/My Dreams”—by Edwin, a fourth grader from Mr. Yniguez’s class at Winn Elementary, along with commentary on the poem by Noah Eli Gordon, an award-winning poet (he’s written seven books!) and professor of creative writing.

"Cloud and Bone" painting by Barringer

Mis suenos

Yo estoy tocando
nubes son azules mi
mano es de hueso
porque el acido de la
nube me quemo. Soy
un niño inquieto. Soy
un perrito. Mi mano todavia
es de hueso. Soy
un elefante. Mi mano
todavía es de hueso.
Soy un carro. Es difícil
ser un carro, les digo.
Porque? Esta bien, les voy a
decir porque tengo tres llantas
y mi mano de hueso.

My Dreams

I’m touching
clouds, they’re blue and my
hand is made of bone
because the acid from the
cloud burned me. I’m
a restless boy. I’m
a puppy. My hand is still
made of bone. I’m
an elephant. My hand
is still made of bone.
I’m a car. It’s difficult
to be a car, I tell you all.
Why? OK, I’ll tell you all why—
because I have three tires
and my hand of bone.

Edwin fourth grade, Winn Elementary School

Here’s Noah’s response to Edwin’s poem:

We adults tend to think that we know a thing or two, that we’re in command of our lives, that we’re in the driver’s seat, easily adjusting to whatever it is that opens to us on the road ahead. But this is an exterior view of life, one set on moving forward, on acceleration. And we all know what happens to the view when we start moving quickly: it blurs. Suddenly, nothing is clear; the world becomes just another mess seen from out of the window. If only we’d take the time to explore interior space, maybe the world outside of the self would once again come into focus. This is the joy of Edwin Vasquez’s poem “My Dream.” Vasquez’s speaker literally reaches into the sky, enacting the desire for transcendence, and though the clouds burn his hand, they also demonstrate the solidity of the body underneath. Just as the bone is revealed but remains unbroken so too his will for something better remains solid, shimmering, pristine, and strong as bone. The self in the poems shifts: Vasquez’s speaker is “a restless boy,” one able to admit his restlessness; and isn’t restlessness also a rejection of the stasis we might easily slip into, a pining for a better world. There’s bravery is such a statement, as there is in being able to recognize that one might not have all the answers, that one might still be on the cusp of innocence, which is what Vasquez’s speaker does by saying “I’m / a puppy.” Yes, puppy are cute, lovable, but they also need guidance; however, such a need helps those around them to recognize again the wonder in the world. But the speaker here knows he’s more than just a malleable little animal. He knows that we’re simultaneously strong and crave our independence. The bone remains a constant; the self can morph. The huge elephant is still kept upright by its skeleton. The hand is still bone. Thus, we realize that the self remains a solid, while the will oscillates continually between that of total agency and total dependence. Vasquez’s poem offers a humorous, though poignant turn in the speaker’s final transformation. Now, he’s a car, a car with only three tires, and a hand still of bone. Even if the objects of the world refuse to run, even if they fail us, our steadfast resolution, indeed, our very humanity, remains. Here, Vasquez’s poem echoes the poet Charles Olson, who famously said, “What does not change / Is the will to change.” But when Vasquez notes “I tell you all,” he’s not sharing a private moment with some imagined other; he’s speaking to the collective body, to the polis, to all of us. Paying attention to this poem just might teach you something about yourself.

Edwin is a fourth grader whose poetry has been published in Rise, the Spring 2012 Badgerdog anthology of elementary student writing.

Noah Eli Gordon is an assistant professor in the MFA program in creative writing at the University of Colorado–Boulder. Visit his PennSound page here:

Loss and Its Strange, Disquieting Partner: Hope

This poem haunts me in ways I can only half describe.  For instance, I love the image of the lost dog “playing in the volcano /  with her friends / throwing pieces of candy.”  That line seems like the perfect way to approach the whole tone of the poem: On the one hand, the dog is lost—maybe even dead—and playing in the dangerous space of the volcano.  On the other hand, the dog is with friends and tossing around candy. The whole poem pivots in this way between sadness and beauty–between longing and its subtleties.  By the time you arrive at those stunning closing lines—”I will become like a fish. / I know very well that I will.” —you have been on a journey through loss alongside its strange, disquieting partner: hope.

—Sasha West, poet and Badgerdog’s Director of Development

Perros abandonados
(Balada de la gran tormenta)

—inspirado por “Iglesia abandonada (Balada de la gran guerra)” de Federico García Lorca

Yo tenía una perra que se llamaba Cloe.
Yo tenía una perra.
Se perdió con los muertos.
La vi jugando en el volcán
con sus amigas
echando pedazos de dulces.
Cuando la perdí, pensé,
¡Mi perra! ¡Mi perra! ¡Mi perra!
Yo tenía un perro
y comprendí que estaba sólo
en la cueva.
Yo tenía una perra y un perro.
Yo tenía los dos desde que nacieron.
No tenía bastante para cuidarlos en mi pobre casa. ¡Ay, mis perros!
Yo los amaba con todo mi pobre corazón.
Yo tenía una perra y un perro que eran bailarines,
pero sin ellos me muero.
Si me muero, estará pronto.
Yo no los dejo,
ni siquiera para salir de la casa.
¡Si mis perros hubieran estado locos!
Me volveré como un pez.
Yo sé muy bien que lo haré.

Abandoned Dogs
(Ballad of the Great Storm)

—after Federico García Lorca’s “Rundown Church (Ballad of the First World War)”

I had a dog and her name was Chloe.
I had a dog.
She disappeared with the dead people.
I saw her playing in the volcano
with her friends
throwing pieces of candy.
When I lost her, I thought,
My dog! My dog! My dog!
I had another dog
and I understood that he was alone
in the cave.
I had two dogs.
I had them since they were born.
I had too little to take care of them in my poor house.
Oh, my dogs!
I loved them with all of my poor heart.
I had two dogs who were ballet dancers,
but without them I will die.
If I die, it will be soon.
I won’t leave them,
not even to leave the house.
If my dogs had only been crazy!
I will become like a fish.
I know very well that

Areli, fourth grade, Ms. Rodriguez’s class, Perez Elementary School

*This beautiful poem, and so many more, are included in Rise, our newest anthology of elementary school writing.

A Poem a Day

Have you ever heard the saying, “A poem a day keeps the doctor away?” I heard it during my first year of studying English literature at St. Edward’s University. At first, I thought it was a clever ploy created by professors to keep English students motivated. Yet I soon came to realize that this little saying is actually true. The days when I had to study tremendous amounts of poetry were some of the best days of my undergraduate career. For me, reading poetry soothed my anxiety and allowed me to appreciate the little things. This morning, I was reminded of why this saying is so particularly true in my life. I came into the Badgerdog office drunk with sleep and rather unmotivated. One of the first things I did was read some of the poetry from the newly published Rise and Emerge books. Lo and behold, I felt instantly better. The poetry published in these two books is utterly amazing; it transported me to fond memories of reading work from Wordsworth, Frost, and Keats (my personal favorite). Yet the best part of reading this poetry was not that it was able to transport me to a distant memory, but rather that it was able to make me laugh, to make me cry, and to inspire me.

Here are two poems that truly caught my attention this morning. The first one comes from Ashley, a student at Martin Middle School, whose poem “A Picture” is published in Emerge: Youth Voices in Ink, Spring 2012. One of the main reasons why I love this poem is because the images are so uniquely powerful. Each sentence made my brain search uncomfortably and desperately for the meaning. I think any poem that requires you to think and leaves you speechless (as this one did for me), is a true masterpiece.

A Picture

Her picture was a smile,
this whispered like a thing
I was. That night was
reality, imagination was the
girl, and glowing through
a closed room. The only complete
mental hand, what’s your fact?
Not anyone else. He rips me
before I can stop him. I’m
a tear in his hands, a picture.
This is us.

Ashley, Martin Middle School

The second poem I loved this morning comes from Ebony, a fourth grader at Bluebonnet Trail Elementary, whose poem “Love Poem for Juan (Who Died)” is published in Rise: Youth Voices in Ink, Spring 2012. Her poem is powerful and has a pleasant rhythm to it that makes it memorable. Ebony reminds us to cherish the happy moments we share with people, even if they have already passed.

Love Poem for Juan (Who Died)

To the dead, who I never touched,
I have really loved you ever since you died.
For Hector, I have been brave
and not cried over your grave.
I remember all the things you did for people
even though I was just a baby,
even though I was just a baby,
I remember what you did for me—
how you took me to the park,
how you bough me cute baby clothes,
and best of all, how you played with me!

Ebony, fourth grade, Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School

—Nicole, intern, Badgerdog Literary Publishing

Parent Leaving

TGIF! In celebration of National Poetry Month, here’s a poem by Ashton, a fourth grader in Ms. Rich’s class at Pioneer Crossing Elementary. Ashton writes a powerful and brilliant poem that tackles the difficult subject of losing a parent.

Parent Leaving

It will
be hard for
your parent to
leave. It will
take you a
long time to
see them.
You won’t see
them every
day. So that
is why I
think they
should stay
with their
families and so
that is why
it is not
fair that
they should
leave their
families and
they will not
do something
to let
them leave
all the

 Ashton, fourth grade, Pioneer Crossing Elementary School