It was the world-without-adults daydream. In my dream I'd never quite figured out where the adults went but we kids were free to roam, to help ourselves to anything we wanted. We'd pick up a Merc from a showroom when we wanted wheels, and when it ran out of petrol we'd get another one. We'd change cars the way I change socks. We'd sleep in different mansions every night, going to new houses instead of putting new sheets on the beds. Life would be one long party. Yes, that had been the dream.
For JennAt 12 years old I started bleeding with the moonand beating up boys who dreamed of becoming astronauts.I fought with my knuckles white as stars, and left bruises the shape of Salem. There are things we know by heart, and things we don't. At 13 my friend Jen tried to teach me how to blow rings of smoke.I'd watch the nicotine rising from her lips like halos, but I could never make dying beautiful. The sky didn't fill with colors the night I convinced myselfveins are kite strings you can only cut free.I suppose I love this life, in spite of my clenched fist.I open my palm and my lifelines look like branches from an Aspen tree, and there are songbirds perched on the tips of my fingers, and I wonder if Beethoven held his breaththe first time his fingers touched the keysthe same way a soldier holds his breaththe first time his finger clicks the trigger. We all have different reasons for forgetting to breathe. But my lungs rememberthe day my mother took my hand and placed it on her bellyand told me the symphony beneath was my baby sister's heartbeat. And I knew life would tremblelike the first tear on a prison guard's hardened cheek, like a prayer on a dying man's lips, like a vet holding a full bottle of whisky like an empty gun in a war zonejust take me just take meSometimes the scales themselves weigh far too much, the heaviness of forever balancing blue sky with red blood. We were all born on days when too many people died in terrible ways, but you still have to call it a birthday. You still have to fall for the prettiest girl on the playground at recessand hope she knows you can hit a baseballfurther than any boy in the whole third gradeand I've been running for homethrough the windpipe of a man who singswhile his hands playing washboard with a spoonon a street corner in New Orleanswhere every boarded up window is still painted with the wordsWe're Coming Backlike a promise to the oceanthat we will always keep moving towards the music, the way Basquait slept in a cardboard box to be closer to the rain. Beauty, catch me on your tongue. Thunder, clap us open. The pupils in our eyes were not born to hide beneath their desks. Tonight lay us down to rest in the Arizona dessert, then wake us washing the feet of pregnant womenwho climbed across the border with their bellies aimed towards the sun.I know a thousand things louder than a soldier's gun.I know the heartbeat of his mother. Don't cover your ears, Love. Don't cover your ears, Life. There is a boy writing poems in Central Parkand as he writes he movesand his bones become the bars of Mandela's jail cell stretching apart, and there are men playing chess in the December coldwho can't tell if the breath rising from the boardis their opponents or their own, and there's a woman on the stairwell of the subwayswearing she can hear Niagara Falls from her rooftop in Brooklyn, and I'm remembering how Niagara Falls is a city overrunwith strip malls and traffic and vendorsand one incredibly brave river that makes it all worth it. Ya'll, I know this world is far from perfect.I am not the type to mistake a streetlight for the moon.I know our wounds are deep as the Atlantic. But every ocean has a shorelineand every shoreline has a tidethat is constantly returningto wake the songbirds in our hands, to wake the music in our bones, to place one fearless kiss on the mouth of that brave riverthat has to run through the center of our heartsto find its way home.
What a strange thing it is to wake up to a milk-white overcast June morning! The sun is hidden by a thick cotton blanket of clouds, and the air is vapor-filled and hazy with a concentration of blooming scent. The world is somnolent and cool, in a temporary reprieve from the normal heat and radiance. But the sensation of illusion is strong. Because the sun can break through the clouds at any moment... What a soft thoughtful time. In this illusory gloom, like a night-blooming flower, let your imagination bloom in a riot of color.
What teachers and the administration in that era never seemed to see was that the mental work of what they called daydreaming often required more effort and concentration than it would have taken simply to listen in class. Laziness is not the issue. It is just not the work dictated by the administration.