“On Trying to Write about the World During a Poetry Workshop” by Meghan Adler

I’m not a fantasy girl, never have been.

You either have a gene for Harry Potter or you don’t.

You might remember a famous line from Dumbledore, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities,” but don’t read past the second book.

You’re either in The Hobbit play in sixth grade, repeat the one line from Bofur, “Thorin, where’s Bilbo?” and become obsessed, or call it a day.

So, I can’t write about mythical creatures that represent death and then hope, evil and then goodness in one day.

I can’t be expansive and use Grecian imagery. Heck, I just found out this morning who Kronos was. I could probably paraphrase some kind of ten year journey back to a place called Home, where after so much strife, struggle, and a large eyeball, love is kind of realized and helps heal the world. But the poetry teacher says to take out all clichés.

And I know I have used a lot of ands here.

And the poetry teacher says I have to listen to the things that are trying to be said under the things we call words. My fingers can lead me to what is needed to be said without censoring.

What I can write about is a time that has already happened.

To almost all of us.

In preschool.

Everyone helped everyone put the blocks away.

When someone fell down at recess, everyone, really everyone, ran over to see if they could help. The rule was that all playing stopped ’til the injured was cared for.

No one was ever held down.

And at the dress-up corner, or imaginary play area as we now call it, gowns, ties, purses, bathrobes, and scarves were worn by the three-foot non-binary everyone. 

And if a grandpa entered the classroom, the little ones sitting quietly on the ABC rug in criss-cross-applesauce didn’t assume he was an ANTIFA provocateur. They asked him important questions like, Did you ever eat glue when you were four? What’s your favorite kind of slime?

Honoring the flag meant pointing to and singing the classroom motto off-key, Sharing is caring.

And when your teacher, who was me, sat on the thirty cupcakes meant for Sally’s birthday party, everyone was allowed to laugh, because one of the expectations in the classroom was: Everyone makes oopsies.

And when a white four-year-old stole an extra Vienna Finger from the Community Snack Plate with her black best friend and ran to the bathroom to stand on a toilet seat together so as not be seen and broke the cookie into two perfect halves to share, a teacher eventually found her and led her gently to tell the truth, to make amends, and to skip snack the next day.

And that cookie thief was also me, and I don’t know why I was compelled to discuss skin color there, but I remember I loved my friend and our connection.

In preschool, every attempt at anything was clapped for.

To fill up our hands with water at the water table and watch the liquid leak and dissipate, slip through crevices between fingers, returning to its origin in the blue depths below.

Meghan Adler’s poetry has appeared in AlimentumCalifornia Quarterly, Evening Street Review, GastronomicaThe Intima: A Journal of Narrative MedicineThe North American Review, and Streetlight Magazine. One of her poems is featured on a wine bottle for Eric Kent Wine Cellars and another is included in an anthology, Illuminations, published by Ten Speed Press. Pomegranate, Meghan’s first book of poetry was recently published with Main Street Rag Press. She volunteers her time as a writing instructor for The Things They Carry Project, a new community of writing teachers and psychotherapists, who co-lead free writing workshops for healthcare workers and first responders.

Image: “Last Night” by Andy Fogle

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