( On November 21, 2016 a school bus crash carrying 37 students from Woodmore Elementary School in Chattanooga TN. took the lives of 6 children and injured many more. I became an employee at Woodmore in January 2017 with grant funds given to the school after the accident. This poem is a reflection upon the students that I met while working as an assistant at Woodmore. The population of Woodmore is mostly African-American, with a few Latino and Caucasian students.)
Passion for Woodmore Mark Anderson 6/12/2017
8:07 am, he drops in his seat
stone cold face, eyes down, no sparkle.
Like an old man he stares ahead,
“Who am I, how did I get here?”
No mother kissed or hugged him
to prepare his heart for the day.
At age 10 he is alone.
Another youth laughs, she is brilliant.
Her hair and features anticipate
the blossom of great beauty,
but she is unaware
of the boys who will consume –
not respect, this precious one.
When the industry of entertainment enslavement
sells raps of lips and hips, and grooves
to be preyed upon, then who
can protect this one?
Angry violent girl boasts of the harm
she will do – cuz, “She was lookin at me.”
Will she be the one who
engages the man in blue
and is slain, or slay,
her weaker foe?
Another generation comes and goes.
They lock horns, engage, verbal assault,
smack down, trash talk; “Your mother is – your father do”
Sad cuz they, of all the kids, are most kin
their own self-hatred burns, deeply.
So I plead, please stop. For these two
are both too precious to lose.
A boy, exceptionally bright, focusses, concentrates,
more than others. A classic case,
full of potential, but I fear
for him, a statistic born
into gangs, they are everywhere,
and he – he is most vulnerable.
His family I suspect, is in
One sweetheart, seldom smiles.
What kind of hardness
must be in her home?
Can you imagine, at twenty three,
with a few scars, or incarcerated?
An insult, a push, fists fly,
angry emotions, no restraint,
impulse rules, is the only rule,
in this hostile environment. But they
are only ten, going on eighteen
or thirty five, doing nine to life.
Then suddenly one day, a beautiful fall day, when children should play,
six departed this world, leaving empty seats, and wounded hearts.
This school that did not need more suffering, received it.
A young driver carelessly, speeding, being silly, delivered it.
Do not attempt to make sense, to reason or rationalize, why.
From ancient times humanity has pushed against that veil, to no avail.
So we cry, and wail, and become the hands that heal.
I cry out “God, intervene, touch, heal, redeem, these precious ones.”
Elvis, Beyonce, Gaga, Snoop, you all
get rich off the evil influence you push,
take responsibility. Spell it; re-spon-si-bil-ity!
Babylon you capitalistic whore, won’t you pay more,
than minimal to those mothers who flip
your burgers? And all the parents who
will not care enough to grow
and provide, safety, comfort, and care,
to you I plea. And to the fathers who
could take time, to sit and read
with your child, to you we all beg;
it is your turn.
In the midst of this pain there is,
precious joy. Kids dance in their stroll
to the pencil sharpener. Silly kids
tease and giggle. A boy excited
at the power, confidence that he – yes, little he
has learned his threes and four timeses.
Four students, one with hurt feelings,
tears starting to flow, the others stop
to comfort, to shelter, from the harshness
of this place. A big smiling girl
with the freedom of youth to speak
things an adult would guard lets free
her words to bless and bring to tears
an old man’s eyes.