WITS Voices: Evergreen Speaks
June 3, 2019
By Maiah Merino, WITS Writer-in-Residence
My first year with Writer in the Schools, I taught 9th grade poetry at Evergreen High School in Burien, four classes, three of which were English Language Learners. The first class of the day set the rhythm, as they struggled the most with English; they were my compass. Slow it down, Maiah. I said to myself often.
During one class period, the theme was “Water in the form of Persona” poems. So, we named many types of water possibilities (urinals, clouds, lakes, rivers and many things in between) which gave them choices, knowing they could become any of these (water in Kool-aid was a favorite). The game became: let’s see if we can figure out who and what you are by how you write about yourself.
The writing brought out laughter, collaboration, clear feedback from their peers and ingenuity. They relished in their ability to fool us or, in their simplicity, because they wanted to be seen and named: Sewage Water.
I am surrounded by land
I am fresh, salty, clean and dirty.
In some places I am clear and others I am
I am endlessly deep
I am home to creatures big and small
I am beautiful
I am dirty, a homeless man
I am musty, sewer pipes
I am deadly, a gas chamber
I got murder on my mind (#FreeMelly)
No money like Saint Jude
I am in the land of the free
I am sad, Bart Simpson edit
I am in the east coast
I am not getting attention as much as cloud chasers
Many of the English Language Learners spoke Spanish, which was my first language; however, in one class I also had students who spoke: Farsi, Dari, Persian, Vietnamese, Amharic and Tigrinya. There were beautiful moments when some students discovered how to describe things about Water; Home; or Colors where their pensive frustration faded to smiles—a line, then two—relief, then joy!
Just because I’m Mexican
doesn’t mean I’m violent.
Doesn’t mean I steal,
and it doesn’t mean I’m a criminal.
It means I’m full of hope,
It means I’m respectful,
and it means I am hard working.
Just because I am Mexican it means I have to look for opportunities
because I know this system was not built for me.
Because I am Mexican it means I have to work twice as hard
because I know nothing will be handed to me.
Because I am Mexican I know that there will always be some
Sort of hate for my culture.
I am Cassandra, I am Mexican, and I will embrace my culture.
Yellow surrounds those,
fortunate to view the sun,
offering humans Comfort and Happiness.
Not only humans, but nurturing plants and wandering animals.
It’s luminous glare,
reflecting on the blue ocean’s surfaces, generating a
beam of light, linking the
Earth’s oceans to the sky.
The beam of light that disappears when the moon rises,
grasping away the opportunity of all natural light.
Pero, cuando el sol salga manana,
trae una nueva luz para nosotros.
A day for children to run freely on the grains
of sand at the beach.
A day for families to inhale the pleasuring air
from the Earth’s forests on
a camping trip.
A day to explore the vast potential beyond
the Earth’s sphere.
And a day to live,
The following is a poem I wrote for the students and shared on our last day together:
Why does it matter?
Why are we doing this?
weighted words brushed the page
I’ll try and cover
—write something to say
no one knows me
lonely I walk
I don’t know how
You wanna know
Do you care
I don’t feel safe
are yelling inside:
they got me
nowhere to roam
and just be a kid
seeming to fit in
I’ll try to find my way here
use my words,
las palabras importa—
your mind informs your home,
y limpiala cada dia
your body is your home,
por que sus ancestros
your emotions add colors
to your home,
usan los todos,
por que todos son energias diferentes
y la vida necesita y consiste en todo
you are your home,
carry yourself with
the grace and love
that is there for
each of you.
Indigenous bilingual, poet, playwright and creative non-fiction writer Maiah A. Merino shares stories of her mixed culture family, and the pulse of what’s alive in her life currently. She has extensive experience offering youth writing and performing opportunities through her work as a Youth & Family Therapist: to hear and share their voices within their communities. Maiah has performed regularly with the Latinx Writer’s Group, Los Nortenos, since 2003. She enjoys collaborative art making across mediums. She recently had three galleried poems featured in an all Latinx Visual Arts show held in Shoreline City Hall from Oct 2017-April 2018. In 2018, Her essay “Bridges and Walls”, appeared in Raven Chronicles Journal, Home. She was also selected 2016/17 and 2017/18 as a Poetry on Buses poet and as a poet on the Seattle Poetic Grid project. Recently, two of her poems (one of which is bilingual) appeared in Yellow Medicine Review.