RAS Collaborative Poem

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Regional Alternative School (RAS) seniors worked collectively to write a poem based on the prompt “where I’m from.”

The project was inspired by a crowd-sourced poem by Kwame Alexander and developed for the class by English teacher Suzanne Massa. Students in the 8th period English class first wrote independently, exploring what the prompt meant to them personally. They then underlined whatever portions they felt like sharing; stanzas, phrases, lines or even just words. The class collected the shared selections and organized them into a single poem.

The resulting poem was titled “The World from Which We Derive” and is a powerful piece of writing that speaks to the backgrounds of every student in the class. It provided an opportunity for personal reflection as well as creative collaboration.

“The World from Which We Derive”

I am from my mom
who taught me the right thing
in this world, to just be myself.
Homemade dinner
endless, overly-drunk adults
constant fear.
A closed cell
loud sounds
brief glimpses of
outside, not knowing
what happens around me.
Wanting to leave
not wanting to associate.
I’m from a long line of survivors
that do what it takes.
I am from strength and love.

I am from everywhere.
My ancestors in the Dominican Republic
Italy
Germany.
I’m from the inner city,
suburbs, and the country.
From homes to homeLESS.
I’m from food stamps and Section 8.
I am from the bubbling foam
in the ocean waves
the creatures who survive below them.
I am from the lives of all my ancestors
until there was me.
Tears in her eyes
wrinkles smiling on her cheeks.
Black dirt in the ground
the sunflower blooming above it.
A city of over 60,000.
Traffic everywhere the eye can see.
Putrid air.
Surrounded by NYC, Newark,
Jersey City, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.
No country, little property.

Cool evening breezes
signal that fall will be here soon.
Echoes of gentle footsteps
fill the roads and sidewalks.
The trees shed vibrant, crispy-colored leaves.
One by one they will fall
no longer willing to bide the
long gangly arms of the tree.
Trees reach to the clouds
Grieving
for they had lost what made them unique.
Leaves floating softly to the vegetation below,
crash abruptly on impact
shattering.

RAS 8th period English class
2019