The problem with being a writing teacher is that sometimes you forget to write.

Or maybe that’s my problem with being a writing teacher. I like to believe my colleagues find time for their poems and essays, carving out precious minutes at 6 a.m. or after everyone else goes to bed.

At 6 a.m. I’m running through my dark neighborhood.  At night, I sleep. In between I work and shop for groceries and make sure everyone gets to music lessons on time. Except for a few lines in my journal before bed, writing moves to the back of the line – behind the dog, behind camp registration forms, behind laundry and doctor appointments and scrubbing tomato sauce off the stove.

I used to think this lack of writing time meant I wasn’t really a writer. Now I know it means I’m a mom with a business to run, and there are only 24 hours in a day.

Last week my daughter signed up for an afternoon of poetry at the Detroit Public Library, a program called Feed Your Soul,” sponsored by the library, InsideOut and 826Michigan. I planned to drop her off.

And then it dawned on me. I could stay too.

What a good idea.

My favorite part was a writing exercise led by Natalie Richardson, a lovely young woman from Chicago, the National Student Poet for the Midwest Region. Who even knew there was such a position?

What a pleasure to be taught by a high school student. Even better, I went home with a poem.  I’ll even let you read it.


Why I Stay

Because I loved the swings
at Kennedy Elementary

Because my hands tasted of iron
and the birch tree in the front yard
was too slippery to climb

Because the sun discovered me
one summer Tuesday

with a child on each side
and a baby at my breast
panicking, unable to envision dinner

Because ten years later
I stand at the kitchen window

inventing a dish
from squash and kale and polenta,
a woman who will forget the ingredients

as soon as the meal is consumed
a woman who will move forward, ignorant –

and not blissfully so –
who will jump from the swing
and land somewhere new every time


3 thoughts on “Swings

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