The Sour Tortilla

First, there was the story by Badgerdog writer Michael, from Metz Elementary. About a tortilla. Who was sour. Who just wants to enjoy his life.

And then, there was Amy Butcher’s recording of “The Sour Tortilla,” which brings to life the voice, the lightness, the hopes of Michael’s tortilla, and that place where discarded things don’t ever have to be lonely: the dumpster.

The Sour Tortilla

People didn’t want to eat the sour tortilla because he is sour.

Now he’s lost in the desert. A buzzard is on his trail, and he doesn’t want to get eaten, so he runs. He used to be at a restaurant. But he was rotten, so they threw him in a dump in the middle of the desert.

He doesn’t want to be eaten by the buzzard—he wants to enjoy his life by being a sour tortilla in the dump with all the other lonely, sour tortillas from the restaurant. He won’t be lonely anymore. They’ll play with the toys people have thrown out.

Michael, Metz Elementary School


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.

Michael was in Ms. Heimsath’s fourth grade classroom at Metz Elementary. The entire class participated in a year-long Badgerdog workshop lead by Cara Zimmer, which lead to the publication of the students’ poems and stories in our annual print anthology for elementary writers, Rise.

Badgerdog runs workshops in schools and in the community. To learn more about us, check out our website, or to contact us about in school programs or having your young writer join our Creative Writing Summer Camp, contact Cecily Sailer at cecily.sailer (at) or (512) 538-1305, ext. 102. If you are a writer or artist and would like to participate in this series of responses to Austin’s youngest authors, contact Jess Stoner at jessica.wigent (at)


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.


We typically expect The Writer to begin with a blank page, with nothing, and little by little string together word after word until a story is made, a moment comes to life, or some meaning is named. But there are times when it’s best to borrow, to lift the words of other writers and rearrange, re-make, re-craft. As you’ll see in this week’s Unbound feature, this form of literary theft can unveil ideas both haunting and beautiful. In the pieces below, you’ll meet two young writers who started with pages from Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Italo Calvino, began chipping away, deleting words and phrases until, finally, a new image emerged. The result is something surreal, an invitation to imagine a world we do not know.  Much applause for Lalo and Jocelyn from Metz Elementary School. These erasure poems are the kind that linger in the mind and echo.


Sin titulo

—un erasure de “El ahogado más hermoso del mundo” de Gabriel García Márquez


El mundo que se llevaba una ballena de la playa de medusas, que llevaba encima hombres más muertos como un caballo. Mucho más hombres cabían en la casa. El olor sólo de lodo.


—an erasure of Gabriel García Márquez’s “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”

The world that took a whale from the jellyfish beach, where there were deader men like a horse. Many more men fit in the house. The smell only of mud.

Lalo, fourth grade, Metz Elementary School


—an erasure of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

Desire overland, horizon
from a steamboat
vibrating and cranes
of flags over another’s
ground floor with
combing hair.
A camel hangs
candied leaves of caravan
desert towards fresh, jagged,
whitewashed veils
from the Despina desert.

Jocelyn, fourth grade, Metz Elementary School

How, Why, and What?

We live in a busy world, one that often requires us to keep the blinders on so we can get things done. There’s little time to sit and stare and wonder, much less question. It’s this reality that makes the writer in all of us a valuable commodity that must be nurtured, at least occasionally. The writer inside asks questions and ponders what might otherwise go unnoticed. The writer doesn’t worry about answers, but instead rests in the joy that comes from looking around and taking it all in, from imagining the possibilities that make up both the world we know and the world we see only when we let go. This week, our featured writer reminds us of the value (and fun) that emerges from curiosity. Her poem takes us on a whirlwind tour of the real and the not-so-real and sends us to a place where nothing is more important than asking what or why, how and which. Congratulations to Laura from Metz Elementary School for a poem that asks all the right questions!

¿Que Senora Come Metal y Plastico?

¿Cuál araña hace la telaraña
de hilo de construcción?

¿Por qué es el detective
un payaso de preguntas tontas?

¿Cuántas galletas de perro
se comió la ballena?

¿Cómo se metió el pato
en la computadora?

¿Cómo hace matemáticas
el corazón?

¿Cuál margarita
come pelo de los árboles?

¿Cuál reloj puede hablar
con las hojas?

¿Cuántas computadoras
viven en Méjico?

¿Qué árbol tiene veneno
en las hojas?

¿Es agua
una jirafa muerta?

What Woman Eats Metal and Plastic?

Which spider makes its web
with construction thread?

Why is the detective
a clown that asks silly questions?

How many dog biscuits
did the whale eat?

How did the duck
get inside the computer?

How does the heart
do math?

Which daisy
eats tree hair?

Which clock can speak
to leaves?

How many computers
live in Mexico?

What tree has venom
in its leaves?

Is water
a dead giraffe?

Laura, fourth grade, Metz Elementary School