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UNDER MY HEAD IS FIRE: Poems from students at an HAC-funded middle school


Downtown - by Erika D.

In downtown the air is as painful as a kick in the butt. The road is as green as dew. I keep my hands in my shoes. I try to make myself fat. I try to imagine moving through a heaving crowd of rabbits without touching a single flea.

In downtown strange feet are below. Under my head is fire.

A kid sings into a hole in a tree, his feet nearly missing me as I pass by. This is nighttime, but in daytime the seats and cabs are smaller. Two infants sit on great whales by the dull teeth of fish, as if they feel pain. A baby yells out that she is selling candied sand apples on a stick. A crowd of drunken birds swells out of a doghouse and crashes into the hard pillow of clouds above. The smell of dog poop. Tape, tape, tape.

Books, like mine, thrown against the cold. We leave downtown on a purple day. We ride the carpets through fire. We leave the tears that surround Hong Kong. We leave the brick people and haylike, crying grass of American streets.

People speed by. Dogs fly and fall by. And I am yelling very softly, but not softly enough for Carlos, who is dozing off on the toilet to listen. "I smell you, land. I smell you downtown."

The firelog stacks and mudyards recede on the water. Goodbye, happy people. Goodbye, happy, happy people.


Art - by Christy B.

Four plain pictures
that are black and white.

circles and lines,
painting, no heads
and arms

Kids in one picture
and men in another,
people's feet,
rusted houses

Newspaper clippings, photo
album made of white rocks
and the  picture shining down
on it.

pictures covered
in colored paper,
hanging from
the ceiling

Pictures of
the Holocaust.

The Kitchen - by Marisela V.

the whole family
family sitting at the table
family all together

a bird family
kitchen is like a bird nest
four little birds

parents, Pedro, Marisela
birthdays in March and July
11, 16, 35

young little girl
has two old, great parents
mean, grumpy brother

"Pass the bread"
the whole family is noisy
the happy birds

dirty dishes washed
"Put them in the dishwasher"
everybody in bed

suddenly it's silent
nobody is in the kitchen
four birds sleeping

only birds singing
they sing because of loneliness
family all sleeping


The Poem is Calling - by Kala B.

The poem is calling
It calls in your heart.
It calls when you talk.
It calls to your brain.

The poem lies
In the hands of people.
It seeps through,
Like water in a paper towel.
Or like water easily flowing through dirt.

Only people know what they feel like.
People see the sights,
Feel the words,
They know the meaning,
And they feel the love.

If only people could follow
The lead of poetry,
It would be
A whole new world.

The Baby Tree - by Ambereen A.

I moved to a
new house
last August.
I left the
beautiful, baby
tree that I planted
in the back yard
of that house.
When the weather
was flaming hot outside,
the lovely leaves
the color of
St. Patrick's Day green,
slowly started turning
from green, to yellow,
to red, and finally, brown
and then, it looked away
from the world,
After that happened,
The leaves
started falling off
my wonderful,
baby tree.
A newborn in the world,
on the ugly, black ground.


Colors in My Mind - by Brittany K.

In my mind I see
colors dancing and leaping across my head
as if they are trying to spell words with no letters.
In my mind I see the color blue.
In my mind this is a sad but deep color trying to talk but never having the right words to describe the feeling.
In my mind I see
the color yellow.
In my mind this is a bright and cheerful color, always happy and light.
Yellow is like the sun when it comes out on a rainy day.
In my mind I see
the color red.
In my mind this is a bold and serious color.
Red is like a soldier that has much pride and struts around the land to show the great honor and trust that he holds.
In my mind I see
the color green.
In my mind this is a gentle, caring color.
Like Mother Earth who is always nurturing the many creatures that God gave to Her.
In my mind I see
the color black.
In my mind this is a lost, deep, solemn color.
It travels like a lost soul wandering forever in darkness.
In my mind I see
colors dancing and leaping in my mind as if
they are trying to spell words with no letters.

 Versas Me Gusta - by Guadalupe R.

en la puerta de mi casa
tengo una mata de calabaza
las mujeres que tu cargas
son las escobas de mi casa

pajarito coloradito aletea
de terciopelo di me si ya no me quieres
abientame al basurero si para ti
sere basura y para otro sere lucero

suspiro sobre suspiro
suspiro sobre llorar
suspiro porque te quiero
y no te puedo olvidar

mi madre es una rosa
mi padre un clavel
tu eres una mosca
pegada en la pared

The Night - by Katie G.

It's quiet outside. It's only me. The wind is blowing and it's sweeping my hair with it; it looks like a flag on a windy day trying to escape from the pole. I can hear the trees shuffling with the wind, the grasses rubbing against one another, and the crickets chirping. If you look up from all of this you can see a sheet of dark blue with tiny glittering stars spread out. Then, if you mix all of this together, it is like a slow song, and it makes you want to sleep.

Writing Like Jazz - by Michael N.

is like jazz.
are the lyrics
of improvisation.
so blaring,
yet mild.
You just can't
get enough of it.
It is soothing
and cool.
The beat
of the pencil
hitting the paper
as I go along
and writing,
and writing.

The rhythm
going through my head
as I write.
The only word that explains it

The Mirror- by Omar G.

I look in the mirror,
but what I see I don't like.
All I see in my reflection is
darkness, no colors at all.
So I long for the rainbow,
but it never comes. So I
shout, and shout, and shout.
I turn away from the mirror,
and I look inside myself. I fill
with joy because the colors are there.

All you have to do is look.

Ode to My Neighborhood - by Edward G.

The tin cans in my neighborhood look really bad in the ditches. Many of them are beer cans. I see men picking them up from trash cans and anywhere else they see them. Maybe they need them for money. I just hope I don't ever need to do that. Graffiti on the walls of stores. I hear people yelling and laughing because they are drunk. I smell the beer that people leave outside. I see gangsters messing with drug dealers. I feel that this is all going to come to an end soon, because they are buying the old houses in my neighborhood and building big, new houses, in my neighborhood. 

Related Language Arts links:    
Reading Assessment
Teacher's Reflection
Back to Best Practices Page




Updated 8/7/2002