WITS Voices: Saying Goodbye to Hutch School
June 7, 2018
By Samar Abulhassan, WITS Writer-in-Residence
Shout Out Poem
(after Sekou Sundiata)
Melanie, 3rd Grade, Washington, Hutch School
Here’s to the greatest words this morning
to one of the best places going down,
Here’s to the blue noodles in one of my poems
To the kids who have come and gone
To the kids who are coming back
To the games of step on a crack,
break your mother’s back
To the dancing
To the singing
To drama class
Here’s to the kids who want to return
To the kids who can’t come back
To the kids who cough and forget hand sanitizer
To the friendship that holds this school together
To the school shutting down
As I sit down to write this, I’m surrounded by a sea of neon pages, fanned open “bookmark” collections full of poems by Hutch School students from the past decade. Bubbling, cascading or precise penmanship announce the titles of these anthologies: I Have a Voice: Now Enter, Let the Rain Wash Bumblebees, Go Little Poem – Get on Your Secret Jet, Hurricane of Letters, I Lost my Poem in an Animal Museum, Moonlight Shine Surprise … each book representing a constellation of hands and hearts, and full of invitation, tenderness and beauty.
Each spring, I collaborated with the entire staff of Hutch School to create these books to mark our time together in classrooms making poems. These books served as a kind of yearbook for families and were offered at a poetry and pizza celebration at school year’s end. Kids proudly read their poems aloud and signed books for each other, and our last celebration happened on Friday, June 1st. In January, the staff learned that the school would close at the end of this school year, after serving students for three decades. This news left everyone heartbroken and stunned.
The only program of its kind in the country, the Hutch School is a fully accredited K-12 school program comprised of three diverse and enriching classrooms for school-aged patients who are temporarily living in Seattle while undergoing serious medical treatment at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.
SAL’s WITS program has offered me a chance to practice some of the most joyful and meaningful work of my life in Seattle classrooms. I’ve been a teaching artist in more than 20 schools (through various arts programs) over the last decade, but the Hutch School occupies an irreplaceable refuge in my mind: a lamp that uplifted and fortified everyone who crossed its threshold. For nine years straight, my “Tuesday” assumed it’s own life force – it was my Hutch day. I have had the great fortune of serving there, in a small but regular way, as poet-in-residence. It often felt like there was an invisible zipline between classrooms as kids of all ages joked and sang and looked after each other. The classes shuffled and shifted nearly every week as students came and left, but there was a consistent, grounded feeling there, anchored by a compassionate and attentive staff.
There was always evidence of deep care and imagination, for example, such as time students arrived from Saudi Arabia and there was sudden signage in Arabic everywhere. Kids came from Hawaii, North Dakota, Alaska, Montana and Dubai. They wrote about memory and longing, wishes and dreams, or unearthed the mysteries of a single word or flower. Barely two blocks away from the Hutch lives the Cascade P-Patch Garden, a garden which welcomed us when it was barren and when it was blooming, the signature scarecrow with his/her seasonal outfits flying in the wind, infusing poems with cameo appearances.
You can’t be at Hutch School and not reckon with the temporal. You might work with a student for two weeks or on and off for three years. This fact always injected my experience with a sense of urgency and presence.
Swimming in a beautiful sea of Hutch school poems recently, I chose one from each year, a sort of mini poetry playlist from the last decade. I could have easily created hundreds of equally compelling compilations. But these poems surfaced together, the way time and time again, a number of us fell into a classroom together for a time. “I do not memorize their coats,” I once wrote in my notebook while the kids were writing. “When we sit down to have an experience with language together, I am aware of words hovering at the lower lids.”
The origin of a poem is mysterious and strange, and the repeated act of putting ink to paper was at times revealing and joyful, or awkward and elusive. Still, I wholeheartedly return to William Carlos Williams’ note that “it is difficult to get the news from poems yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” I hope you enjoy these poems, while circling back to Melanie’s Shout Out at the beginning of this blog entry. My heart is full!
Tyler, 12, Washington
In a colony of twelve dragons, in a café there is a thirteenth. The other dragons act like he doesn’t exist. They don’t talk to him, they don’t listen to him. He isn’t fed ever. The little baby dragons don’t play with him. None of the older dragons teach him. The daylight doesn’t see him. The sun did not shine on his scales. The others don’t share meat from their hunt. The rats resent him. Even the mice won’t have with him. His bed is not used, his toys scattered on the floor unused. His wings do not see the sun. And yet, he still lives through the trials.
by Lilly, 3rd Grade, Washington
What are you?
A streak of the sun?
Or a blade of fire?
You’re as soft as my Zofran,
you smell like my antibiotics.
You remind me of warm water at the beach.
by Abby, 9th grade
Someone said my name in the garden.
There it goes again … did you hear it?
Soft like the moth’s wing,
but clearly heard from the ear of the raven.
Am I hallucinating?
No, but I heard it, surely you heard it too.
The sun gets brighter,
the stun of the glare is its proof.
I long for shade, it’s getting hot. I want to leave.
In the sliver of a second I see something move.
It’s true, the baffled daisy stares at me with delight,
and there it is, I am cold stone as my shadow
moves without me.
I summon it with my name and ask.
by Ryan, 1st grade, Washington
builds a cocoon
He glues it shut
with melted marshmallows
he locks it with a twisted branch
Inside he measures
the wings he is growing
He drills out with a low humming sound
He fastens on his wings
with a tiny red twig
He hammers the air with his wings
And repairs his antennae with green paint
I Can Not Say it in a Way You Understand
by Emily, 10th Grade, Washington
I believe in sorrowful artists
sculpted just as anyone else
but full of whispered conflicts.
running through their minds
are just as incoherent
stutters, to the public.
there are many violent
hushed voices in yourself.
You have so much to say
but you choke
you can only murmur
a fraction of what you feel.
I am bold with words.
My chest grips them.
I can’t make you understand.
by Sydney, 8th grade, Alaska
Lost world was given its name for a reason
Filled with memories, experiences, and love
All pushed to a distant place
Never leaving your memory nor heart,
Sitting there waiting
Even years to reveal itself
Perhaps you may be having a bad day,
Sour, over powering, then sweet
In a haze of emotions
Your lost world will surprise you
Maybe even on a good day when the sun shines just right
Fresh, light, and soothing
Sparks your lost world
Give it the love and warmth it has been longing for
Some lost worlds are never found,
Never looked back on
Just a distant planet in our brain that doesn’t orbit any more
A lost world that just sits
Till it’s pulled back into your heart
Hurricane of Letters
by Kori, 7th Grade, Washington
I go about each day
In a misty cloud of confusion
Coming off pages
Weighing me down
In heavy fog
But still I pick up
Knowing it will weigh me down
Again and again
Every time I have hope
That the sun will come out
No more preposterous fog
Today I don’t feel like
Picking back up
But still I do
The hurricane of letters
Drifting off again
By Kamilah, 1st grade, Hawaii
Praise is coming into my body
And the cold winter breeze is surrounding me with snow
While I’m eating praise and the smoke is silently whispering to me
And now praise has made a house
And I stop in and
I see beds, greeting cards, and airplanes made out of
Snow and smoke and praise and
Paper and everything
That you can make things out of
Many, many thanks to the teachers, staff and volunteers of Hutch School: Margaret Flatness, Melissa Walsh, Frank Lee, Clarissa Wells, Stephanie VanderVelden, Laurie Goble-Van Diest, Joan Meskill and Tim Meskill.
Samar holds an M.F.A. from Colorado State University and worked in California public schools for seven years. Born to Lebanese immigrants and raised with multiple languages, she is a 2006 Hedgebrook alum and the author of two chapbooks, Farah and Nocturnal Temple.