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Wednesday, October 15, 2014


by Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

You Receive A Present From Someone You Haven’t Seen In A Long Time. 
Who’s It From? What’s Inside?
---Writing prompt at Jubilee Partners ESOL Program
for Refugees, Comer, Ga.

This Congolese boy describes hide and seek with a twist.  The Finder must shoot the Found with a “to-PI-co.”   I draw the sling’s “Y” shot, and we review adjectives: playful, violent.  They use seeds, not rocks. He swears it’s not a violent game he’s missing with his friends.  Maybe just the culture of boys playing.  Already a man at 17, mothered by his sister while the split family grieves over a sibling’s typhoid, a missing father.  A mother in Texas grieves.  She let her boy play with neighbors whose chambers held loaded handguns.  The yellow tape.  The no return.  She preaches we ask before sending children on playdates to unsafe houses.  Foam swords.  Squirt guns.  Games that allow the player to spell bomb so one appears and blows holes through a virtual wall.  A boy-almost-a-man, 21, rented our house while we lived in Mexico.  I didn’t know he hunted.  He demanded his full deposit though he’d punched a hole through my son’s door.  I patched it, he argued.  It better be good enough.  Slight threat as he insisted I search for his lost fishing hooks. It’s better to withdraw where there are bullets.  But what do you do when your village is burned? Do you get the deposit back? Do you offer a limb? A daughter or son? While one remembers a war-toy, another girl conjures a pair of green shoes.  Imagination’s tucked into every child like a hidden coin or buried like a sandbox in concrete.  This boy has 2 months before he’s to pay rent, find a job, buy his own shoes in this confusing and green country. The Christian volunteers were to bury a Death Row inmate and the Salvadorans insisted they’d shovel better. Unable to bury their own, they moved earth for our discarded men. Éste por mi mama.  Éste por mi papa. They slung red clay in the rhythms of a clapping game.

Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor is Professor of Language and Literacy Education and Program Chair of TESOL & World Language Education at the University of Georgia. She is the winner of Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prizes and a Leeway Poetry Grant, and has co-authored two books, Teachers Act Up: Creating Multicultural Learning Communities Through Theatre and Arts-Based Research in Education.  She has published numerous articles, and poetry about language learning and teacher education.  Her poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Women’s Quarterly Review, Cream City Review, Barrow Street, Puerto Del Sol, Mom Egg, and many other literary homes.  She judges the annual Anthropology & Humanism poetry contest.