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


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

Love and Thunderstorms

Carolina, a fourth grade student from Bluebonnet Trail Elementary, reminds us of the unique qualities of time, in her poem, “Love Poem to Time.” Carolina personifies time, which has the ability to provoke the deepest sentiments within us.  She also acknowledges how valuable time is to every person, whether they are stranded on an island, fighting to survive; or whether they are risking their lives to protect and care for their family. Her poem inspires us to love the time we have, and to appreciate  everything we do.

Love Poem to Time

Time, what a never-ending story.
If someone were to write it all down,
you probably wouldn’t be able to read
even five chapters. Some dull, some exciting,
happy, graceful, astonishing, sad,
and some depressing.
But know this,
they are all human stories, like the old,
white-haired woman who walked
to the Amazon on foot. Or the man
who survived four years alone on an island.
Or the man who loves his family so much
he risks his life just to get them fed.

Carolina, fourth grade, Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School


There is a distinctive feeling one gets when a thunderstorm strikes. Cheyenne, a fourth grade student from Mr. Alaniz’s class at Pickle Elementary, seems to feel fear and curiosity at the same time.  She parallels the storm with the sound of a woman screeching and the horrifying image of a cat scratching the sky.  Yet despite the terror the storm produces, Cheyenne opens her window and allows the rain to take hold of her senses and wipe away her fear.

The Thunderstorm

I was on my bed listening to the thunder;
it sounded like a woman screaming.
I opened my window and I could smell the rainwater.
It smelled like the saltwater.
I put my hand out
and it felt like a waterfall hitting my arm.
The lightning looked like a cat scratching the sky.

Cheyenne, fourth grade, Pickle Elementary School


Chambers of Memory

The Memory Palace is an ancient technique meant to help people remember. Here’s how it works: Imagine a house with rooms. Imagine yourself walking through those rooms; memorize what they look like.  Now put things you want to remember in these rooms—the first few sentences of a speech on the front steps, the next few sentences in the closet in the front hallway.  Then, when you want to remember your speech, imagine yourself walking through your Memory Palace.  

When Badgerdog brought Ms. Hertz’s fourth grade class from Bluebonnet Trail Elementary to the Blanton Museum of Art to see the El Anatsui exhibit, their teaching-artist, Jeff Pethybridge, encouraged them to creatively respond to the artist’s work.  Symphanie, one of Ms. Hertz’s talented young poets, wrote in response to El Anatsui’s “Chambers of Memory”; her poem of the same name does so many things at once. It walks us through her experience of the exhibit, in a way creating her own Memory Palace in response to “Chambers of Memory,” and it reminds us of the kinds of things we keep in our own—smells, history, colors, things that might still be sweet, and the memory of too many memories.

Chambers of Memory

Wood and sand of a forest
burning to the ground
and the pain they felt
from the blowing fire all around.


Many layers of boxes of rooms
that have holes and tiers
of too many memories.


A big cloud of colored wrappers sewn
together, maybe still sweet with colors.

Things that are floating around like a fly to be colorful of color food.

Symphanie, fourth grade, Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School

Badgerdog at the Blanton

If you happened to be wandering through the Blanton Museum of Art last November, you might have found yourself in a small gallery full of artistically rendered blueprints. They hung on the wall still wearing the creases from their shipment to the museum (the artist, Leon Ferrari, wanted them that way). From a few feet away, the blueprints had the look of those we’re accustomed to—designs for a space that humans can use, travel through, sit down in and hold conversations. But as you stepped closer, you discovered each blueprint sketched a reality quite unfamiliar—vast tables at which people sat facing away from one another, dozens of people walking through a winding labyrinth, a tangle of Escher-like staircases.

Thanks to the Blanton and support from Applied Materials, several of our young writers had the chance to view these blueprints (among other works) and use them as inspiration for their writing. This week, we are proud to feature one of these poems. Here, Gwen sketches a beautiful world through poetic blueprint, and like those prints in the gallery, Gwen’s rendition imparts a similar sensation—curiosity, awe, and mystery. She has much to be proud of.

Blueprints and Cathedrals

In the blueprints for my city, you will find adults six inches tall.
Each story in a building is one foot high.
When it rains, you see sad faces in the sky.
When it’s sunny, you see happy faces in the sky.
When people walk into the sanctuary, they fall into the ceiling.
Rules: no litter, no roads, and no taxes.
And don’t be modest.
There are twenty churches in there.
Have faith and hope.

Gwen, fourth grade, Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School

What If?

You want to sleep, but your mind is racing. A million different scenarios scroll across the movie screen in your head, and none of them are pleasant. What if . . . ? What if . . . ? What if . . . ? Each answer to this question comes up odd, frightening, or downright absurd, and yet the questions race. Until, finally, they relent and let us rest. We’ve all had a case of the What-Ifs. This week, those annoying questions have taken over as we welcome the fourth-grade writers from Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School in Manor ISD. Here, they share with us their fears—both silly, strange, and stifling.

What If?

Last night, while I lay here, some
what-ifs crawled inside my ear.

What if the teacher’s really mean?
What if my hair’s not clean?
What if I make no friends?
What if I turn into a hen?
What if my desk is old?
What if my desk has mold?
What if my teeth are smelly?
What if they look like jelly?

What do I do, I do when
there’s what-ifs in my head? Do I
just lay there like I’m dead?



Last night while I lay here, some what-ifs crawled in my ear. What if a big bug jumped on me and tried to crawl in my mouth, but I hit it off me? What if a lot of hair were growing on my body, like I was turning into a werewolf, and I tried to shave it off, but it just kept growing and growing? Then sharp teeth appeared in my mouth, and I got blue eyes, and I jumped up and yelled, “Mom and Dad!” a lot, and I ran in their room, and they were screaming, Ahh! Ahh! because I was a full werewolf, and I jumped out of the house and went on with my other friends.

It was dark, and I almost barked.



What if I fell off the wall?
What if I got really small?
What if my hair got glued to a ball?
What if I got ten feet tall?
What if my face got stuck to a sticky book?
What if I fell off a building?
What if I got hit in the face?
What if I looked like a booger?

Jon Paul

What Ifs

Last night, while I lay here,
some what-ifs crawled inside my ear.

What if they mess up my room and
I have to clean it up?

What if they go to the kitchen
and snatch my fruit snacks?

What if they take my favorite toy
and I call my mom and she gets mad?

What if they make me into a monkey
and I can’t go to school?

What if they give me a vision
(and if I want to know if they’re lying I can)?

What if I can’t control myself
and I yell, “Hey! Stop being rude!”

What if they make me and my family separate?
That would not be good at all!


What If

_____________Last night,
while I lay here, some what-ifs crawled inside
_____________my ear:

What if I don’t make friends?
What if I make no amends?
What if I’m all alone?
What if I’m chilled to the bone?
What if my parents disappear?
What if a rat gets inside my ear?
What if I don’t get bigger?
What if my goals seem farther?
What if I don’t grow tall?
What if I lose my ball?
What if I start to cry?
What if my mother starts to fry?

I doubt anyone, big or small, likes the what-ifs.
_____________Not one bit at all.


What If My Hair’s Too Green?

What if my breath stinks?
What if my feet stink?
What if my hair’s too green?
What if my face is too wide?
What if I get scared and scream like a girl?
What if I get married?
What if I don’t pass my test?
What if I sag and someone pantses me?
What if I my body turns inside-out?
What if I lend a hand?
What if I kick a ball and my foot comes off?
What if I eat Sour Heads and my head blows up?
What if I’m feared, and I grow a beard?
What if my epidermis comes off?
What if it’s born again?


What If-ing in the Night

Last night, while I lay there,
some what-ifs crawled inside my ear:

What if I wake up and nobody’s there?
What if I disappear into the air?
What if I pee in my pants?
What if I stand in the ants?
What if my plane crashes and I die?
What if I get in trouble and cry?
What if I’m in a shower and my house is on fire?
What if I never get hired?
What if I get slashed by a bear?
What if I fail a dare?
What if I have a heart attack?
What if I’m chosen as a snack?
What if I get killed in my dreams?
What if it’s the end of the world as it seems?


The Way I Frighten Myself

What if I kept on hitting myself,
and saying that I was
the biggest, baddest girl in school—
even in the whole world?

What if I was a bully and
hated or humiliated everyone?
What if I was pretending
to be people’s friend?
What if I killed or hurt someone in a bad way?

Life doesn’t frighten me at all,
and I don’t frighten anyone,
but I do frighten myself.

My what-ifs hurt people,
but I would never do such a thing.

Help, listen, be happy.
Make changes:
good ones, great ones.
Be smart, bright, big,
and most importantly:
Never hurt anyone.



Last night, while I lay here,
some what-ifs crawled in my ear.
What if I don’t have food or water to eat or drink?
What if a scary monster comes to my room?
What if I die?
What if my dad spanks me?
What if I have no family members?
What if I get a wedgy?
What if I never die?
What if I never lie?
What if I am the only living thing on earth?
What if I’m ugly?
What if I get dirty?



Last night while I lay here, some what-ifs
crawled inside my ear.

What if I can’t hear?
What if I show my fear?
What if I shrink to four inches tall?
What if I can’t work at all?
What if I freeze?
What if I scream?
What if I can’t run a block?
What if I can’t stop?
What if I fall inside a ditch?
What if my heart goes tick-tick?
What if yerks fall in my ear?
What if people yell and sneer?
What if I drown?
What if I’m bound?
What if I’m kicked?
What if I get licked?
What if someone lacks the air?
What if someone pulls my hair?
What if I’m caught?
What if I’m shot?
What if I bleed?
What if I leave?
What if I’m scum?
What if I’m numb?

I so wish the what-ifs were tied and bound.
I just don’t like the what-if sound.



Burgers tend to sell themselves, but the idea of becoming a burger is a little harder to buy into (or bite into). Maria from Bluebonnet Trail Elementary, however, offers this excellent sales pitch on the perks of leaving behind your human life and moving into the realm of burger. Congratulations to Maria on her surprising and delightful piece. Maria clearly has imagination to spare!

Being a Burger

Being a burger is fun because you get to have a spirit. When someone takes his first bite of you, your spirit comes out. You can also take a bite of yourself, and the person who’s going to eat you won’t know. They won’t know because the burger is still visible to them, so when they try eating you they’ll be confused. Being a burger is also fun because you don’t have to go right back to being a burger, you can do whatever you want.

I hope if you ever get the chance to be a burger, you take it and have lots of fun.

Maria, fourth grade, Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School

My Cousin Laura Has a Heart

My cousin Lauren has a heart because she is always nice. She is always like, “You want water?” She is only three years old, I think.

When someone falls or cries, she goes and says they hurt themselves. I love my cousin so much. She is like my little hero. We always play together.

When my cousin first wakes up, she is grumpy. When I go get her, I ask, “You want to come with me?” She always says yes. I love her so much. I want her to always be my cousin. She likes to dance and go outside.

When my cousin goes outside, she likes to play tag and do cheers. My sister and I bend our knees and my cousin Lauren gets on top of our knees and stands up. She also says, “Go! Go!” She has brown hair. She is short, and most of the time I see her she has new shoes.

Zianne, fourth grade, Bluebonnet Trail Elementary School