Coronavirus is on the tongue of every passerby. Gossip spreads faster than germs
and both are carriers of the disease.
We wash our hands raw
with soap and practicality
but can’t help inhaling the news.
Our map is full of pins
in places we’re not allowed to go
while vacations are both extended
At a time when human comfort
seems like the best medicine
we isolate, wave from afar,
blow kisses into our elbows
and pray to the gods of science.
Two years ago, I began assisting with my middle school’s Writing Club, and last year I took over as sponsor. It makes for a long Friday afternoon, and sometimes I need to just sit in the silence of my car for a few minutes before I drive home so I can get the ringing in my ears to stop*, but overall it’s been a very pleasurable experience.
* Ringing in your ears? It’s a Writing Club. Doesn’t that mean you spend the hour listening to the peaceful scratching of pen on paper? Um, no.
At my school’s Writing Club, the focus is on the word Club more than on the word Writing. The hour after school is as much about students gushing over their latest literary crush, arguing over which fandom is better: Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, and complaining about the perils of writer’s block, as it is about writing the great teen novel. We do eventually put gel pen to journal most days, but first there are beach ball ice breaker games and a general LOUD decompressing after a long day/week. Some students come to the club with works in progress—comics, sci-fi novels, poetry—that they add to or work on. Others sit down with a blank page and see what happens. Some just come for the company. Because, most importantly, Writing Club is a place where these young writers can be among their own kind and let their inner selves out to play without judgment.
My favorite part is when we end with sharing time because these kids, silly or not, are killing it with their poems and stories, and they’re not afraid to put themselves on paper or take their fiction to dark, shadowy places. Last week at our first meeting of the year (yes, we started Writing Club on a full moon Friday the 13th) one girl shared a heart-wrenchingly honest poem written to her math class crush, another read a haunting piece full of dramatic imagery, and another shared a witty, rhyming poem about the latest trends that had both me and our principal in stitches, even though we didn’t get all the references. These kids always inspire me. Which brings me to my other favorite thing about Writing Club… It often gets me writing.
I’ve drafted unexpected blog posts in Writing Club and written poems based on prompts, and even wrote the first page of a story about a zombie crocodile that I later turned into something I really like. The ideas that come to me in this setting are things that probably would never cross my mind elsewhere, as if I, too, can channel my inner “young writer” around all this creative youth.
I’m grateful for Writing Club, and I’m looking forward to more meetings with this year’s bunch of unique little oddballs. They are my people.
Today I’d like to share a little haiku I wrote that was first published in The Texas Observerin 2015.
Naomi Shihab Nye, who chose the poem for publication, said about my work: “I love Carie Juettner’s understated twist of observational loveliness in this tiny poem. When people in other states ask, as they frequently do, ‘Why do you live in Texas?’ one could simply reply ‘For the flowers’ and be done with it.”
This comment from my favorite poet left me smiling ear-to-ear for several days. I still get a thrill each time I read it and think about her reading my words.
With a big thanks to Naomi and The Texas Observer for giving this haiku its first home, here is “Politics aside”:
Politics aside, wildflower season brings out the blue in Texas