In the seventh or eighth grade, my English class was visited by poet Peggy Simpson Curry. I don’t remember what form of poetry Mrs. Curry taught us, but I do recall writing a poem and sharing it with the class, much to the amusement of other students, Mrs. Curry, and the principal.
I thought nothing more about this until last year when I heard that Mrs. Curry had passed away. I then thought of the poem I wrote over thirty years ago when she visited our class. Back then, I didn’t save anything I wrote, but I could remember key elements of the poem so I recreated it. This is what I call a Christmas tree poem because I don’t remember the name of the poetry form. It has nine lines, each line containing more syllables than the last. When centered on the page, it looks like a Christmas tree. This poem appears in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver.
Locker doors slam.
Buses thrum nearby,
bring children from afar
to classrooms, waiting teachers
in a school atmosphere controlled
by a fat and sassy principal.
At the time, the principal was Dr. Virginia Wright who has long since passed away. When she introduced herself to me, she said, “I’m sixty-two years old. I have gray hair, and I’m fat and sassy.” Because she said that to me, I thought it would be okay to write that in the poem, and it was. She somehow got wind of it because she called me into her office, but contrary to what my classmates believed would happen, I wasn’t punished. She asked me what I learned from Mrs. Curry, and I told her. When I read her the poem, she, like everyone else who heard it, thought it was funny.
She was a big help during the two years I was in junior high. She made sure I had Braille textbooks and other materials I needed, and was available whenever I needed to talk to someone. She even gave me a ride home from school one day when I missed the bus. She was like an extra grandmother.
Do you remember a teacher or principal who helped or inspired you during what they call those impressionable years? Tell me about it.