Grace Neighborhood Nursery School, April 27th and 28th, 2017
We headed out with our poems, despite the blustery day. That meant putting on and zipping up jackets, mittens, hats. Each child is carrying some poems; poems they have written either as a class, or individually. Each poem has been decorated too; with a painting or dots or sequins or ribbons or markers.
The school is located in Uptown, Minneapolis, with a coffee shop, a paint and hardware store, a senior center and clinic all within walking distance. Our first stop is the coffee shop. There is something magical that happens, every time we do this. The random interactions between the children and the adults they approach, and ask, say, “Would you like a poem? It is poem in your pocket day, This is for you.” I watch the children move through the space, barely as tall as the tables the patrons are sitting at. I watch the faces of the coffee drinkers and bun eaters (Isle Bun and Coffee has amazing cinnamon buns–the smell of the place alone is enough to make you happy) and on each a smile blooms.
This is our third year celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day at Grace. The first time we set out, one of the kids said, “I wonder if babies like poems?” and sure enough a mother turns the corner with a stroller. A couple kids approach her, ask if they can give her baby a poem. And of course the baby takes it, holds it tightly in her hand. Then as boy says, I wonder if dogs like poems too. And as you guessed, we encounter a dog who comes to work with the architect around the corner. And the dog holds that poem in his mouth, sits and poses as the children gather round for a picture. It was his prize and he was not giving it up.
Last year, when we went to the senior center, a group of the residence were just finishing lunch. The children approached them and handed them their poems. One woman moved to an open area and started dancing. She caught the eye of one of the five year-olds, and he went over and danced near her. A moment later they took hold of each other’s hands and danced together. There was no music, just this shared moment. Like poetry.
The children are given multiple copies of their poem, so they can take some home to have and share there. But still there are always a few children who don’t want to part with the poems they are carrying. And when they do decide to give them away, there is something that shifts in them. They see the face of the person they have given the poem to, and they see the joy they have created and spread. It is simple and powerful. It is affirming.
When we entered the clinic, the waiting room was quiet. Five or six people sat in random chairs. The children asked each one of the patients if they’d like a poem. I watched as small conversations took place, talking about the poem and the artwork and the day. When we left, an older woman waved to us. All the children waved back.
And when the city bus pulled up to the stop at the corner the class was standing near, a little girl and I got on the bus and she handed the driver a poem, said this is for you to put in your pocket. He was thrilled, and looking back I saw that the whole bus was smiling.
The man at the paint store, when handed a poems said, you are good with color.
And he’s right, they are. They are good with color and with words and with sharing both and so much more.