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Natalie Tells Us

to write a poem about self-love                      & positivity    she is sixteen & drinking Starbucks

for the tenth day in a row   something cold & pink with whipped cream                    it’s her day to

present to the class      so here she is               sitting in the desk at the front of the room           tossing

her long straight hair              to the side                   clicking her sharp acrylic nails  (pink this

week to match her drink) on the desk     nervous                                   but smiling                 she has

a poem for us: Langston Hughes wants us to wear it/like a banner/for the proud    & I can see

why             Natalie picked this one           it’s short and maybe a little bit about fashion            (you are what

you wear)                     I scratch out words in my notebook   so the kids will think       yeah:   self-

love  is easy         but they don’t know                how my pencil goes: February now &

                      outside the cold is more than cold         the hammock is more than wet, drenched

                     drooping between two wooden posts where the weeds have grown up & around

                     the morning glory            a dim glow in the dark dawn              after the rain    the sky is blue

again               & I am blue again       so let Natalie write                  about self-love

                     I hope she can & does                         love herself     even here in this grey classroom

                     piled-high & too full of papers           I don’t want to grade they               don’t see what I

see        & thank god    let it be enough today to be up              if not uplifting

Lisa Piazza


Lisa Piazza teaches high school in the Bay Area.  Her stories and poems have been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, The VERA and the Pushcart Prize.

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