I need to write six poems for my poetry project, but I don't know what to write about, Mary says.
Mary is fourteen and in the sixth grade. She's behind in her schooling because she lived in Africa until a few years ago.
Why don't you try thinking about childhood memories, I suggest. Does anything come to mind?
The jumping cats.
Yes. When I was little, my father and I used to sit on our porch and listen to the cats jump from roof to roof. The houses were very close together, you know. This was when we lived in Guinea.
How did that make you feel? I ask.
Okay when I was with my father, but scared at night. Loud thumps and scratching sounds would wake me up. The cats were all black with yellow eyes.
That does sounds scary, I said. I think that story would make a really good poem. What else do you remember?
There was a European boy in our village who walked on his toes all the time.
A European boy?
Yes, he had an accent.
And he walked on his toes?
All the time.
Desmond, who has been listening in, jumps out of his chair. Like this? he says, walking with a bounce.
No, Mary says, like this. She gets up and stands on her toes, like a ballerina on pointe.
Wow, I say. He walked like that all the time?
Uh huh. We laughed and laughed and laughed.