Student Poem

First Impressions – Inner Expressions
Poem #2

by Octavia, age 15, Garfield High School

If art is healing then sickness is not being able
to express yourself.
If sickness is not being able to express yourself,
funk is the cure…
Curing your heartbreaks, curing your loss,
curing your loneliness, curing the cause.

Funk sounds like laughter louder than their whispers.
Funk feels like healing…
healing the pain that caused so many tears.

Healing feels like you getting over a struggle…
a rash spreading rapidly that has weakened your body
and taken over your soul with no way out.
Screaming is pointless because you’re the only one that hears.

My mother’s tears, from her eyes, to her cheeks, to her ears
…she was the strongest through it all…
smiling through her pain is when she’s the prettiest to me.

Funk is music.
A generation of self-expression and fun
…my grandparents with high afros and high shoes.
Funk is the cure of a sickness no one can control.
A healing process that makes all troubles disappear
and all the tears fade away… all the memories grow faint.

Funk makes life easier…
easier to drown out the hate, easier to ignore the doubt.
You can’t be mad, can’t be sad. You just let funk take over.

Funk is when you’re you.
It’s when you’re smiling to destroy the ones that like to see you cry.
It’s when you’re standing tall, upsetting the ones that like to see you fall.
And, when you are being yourself,
no one can take that away.

The Northwest African American Museum (NAAM) Youth Curators is a community outreach program that introduces local teens to the Museum world and encourages their creativity and expression through themed projects. The 2012 project, First Impressions – Inner Expressions, was co-facilitated by Daemond Arrindell who led the students in a process to write and speak their opinions. They became familiar with navigating rhythms, owning their expression and connecting to the power of words. Much of the inspiration for the spoken word was derived from the current NAAM exhibition Xenobia Bailey: The Aesthetics of Funk.

 Octavia will present her poem along with other student poets on Saturday, April 7, 2012, 1:00 – 3:00 at the Northwest African American Museum to celebrate the exhibition opening and the 2012 Dr. Carver Gayton Youth Curator Program.


Student Poem


Hide and Seek
after a painting by William Merritt Chase

by Xuan Tran


Inside the dark
the girl is running
She passes the chair
She passes the door
Toward the curtain
Unknown to her
a pair of eyes
keep staring at her

The dark running chair
The door passes the girl
Inside the curtain
The unknown eyes
staring toward the room

A dark girl
stares at the door
Unknown to the curtain
The room passes the eyes
Towards the chair

The running curtain
Keeps passing the chair
The girl stares
at the unknown eyes
A pair of darkness

Passing the door
A pair of eyes
The room stares
toward the dark
The girl inside the chair


Xuan Tran is a student at Seattle World School, formerly the Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center.  Xuan wrote “Hide and Seek” during an after-school poetry class offered by the Vietnamese Friendship Association and the Jack Straw Foundation.

Dennis Caswell

Kandinsky: Composition 8, 1923


An explosion in Stravinsky’s robot workshop:
now poor Igor will never complete
his troupe of clockwork dancers, which,
judging from this jagged blast
of armatures, sprockets, escapements and flanges,
would have looked less like metal humans
than graceful assemblies of drafting supplies:
jeté of dividers, pas de bourrée
of mechanical pencils and pantographs.
This watchmaker’s orgasm, this architectural plan
for the Church of Dissonant Space Flight,
these mad extrusions and stampings and lathe-spun
lenses perform the airborne metal music
of migrating mathematics, honking along the flyways
of a just-manufactured heaven, a heaven
where twentieth-century robots can dance,
can fly, can worship
the innards that make them tick.


Dennis Caswell lives outside Woodinville, Washington and works as a software engineer in the aviation industry. Before that, he designed and programmed computer games and educational software. His work has appeared in Floating Bridge Review, Crab Creek Review, Burnside Review, Vain, and assorted other journals and anthologies.


Peter Pereira

Magnolia Blossom


Who knew so many shades of white
could exist in one blossom?
Popcorn and sourdough,
bleached jean and sand.
All the satiny tones of wedding dress
and mayonnaise, cuticle and tusk.
And rising from the dizzying
whirl of snowy petals
a swollen, clitoral seed tower
all bread fruit and ivory,
sticky as shredded coconut.
They say white is not absence
of color, but its fullness.
A painter’s box laden with pearl necklace,
cigarette smoke, bone china, milk.
Cloudbank and table linen,
oyster shell, starlight.


Peter Pereira is a physician, a poet, and the founder of Floating Bridge Press. His poetry collections include Saying the World (winner of the Hayden Carruth Prize and a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award) and What’s Written on the Body, both published by Copper Canyon Press.  His work has been included in many anthologies, including Best American Poetry and To Come to Light: Perspectives on Chronic Illness in Modern Literature.

“Magnolia Blossom” is an ekphrastic poem based on a photo of the same name by Imogen Cunningham.

Susan Rich


Polishing Brass

 Myra used her housekeeper, Alma Schmidt, as a subject in several of her pictorial photographs of Dutch domestic life. Schmidt wore costumes and posed in a variety of theatrical scenes. No further record of their relationship exists.


No, more a holy meditation
on surface and stain

Madonna with Vessel.

The inland
glow of white shoulders

rivulet of vertebrae

vestige of one breath-
takingly long

and sexual arm
which grasps

the ledge
of the cauldron

as she curves onward.


Remember form:
nothing more

than potent omen ~

pyramid of saucepan top,

of water bucket, angle of  the invisible
skin dimpled

underneath her arranged garment ~

a light-stroked body,
conflicted as rosewater, as clotted cream~


Alma, grace of more
than poor

Our Lady of the Scullery Shimmer ~

starlet of
returning questions

May I serve you?



Perhaps art as polish

gloss of what the photograph

 pretends in voyeurism.

 An aperture, a flash

of the nakedly conscious eye ~

 a part of and apart ~

 blessing identity until it blinds us.


 Once, on a sunlit afternoon

 a maidservant, an ingénue,

 swept forward ~

 into what this moment you

in Walla Walla, Soho, Barcelona ~

 might admire, must revise ~

a woman’s hands: fingernails, blue.



Susan Rich is the author of three collections of poetry, The Alchemist’s Kitchen (2010) named a finalist for the Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award, Cures Include Travel (2006), and The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World (2000) winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry. She has received awards The Times Literary Supplement of London, Peace Corps Writers and the Fulbright Foundation. Recent poems appear in the Harvard Review, New England Review, and The Women’s Review of Books.

“Polishing Brass” is an ekphrastic poem, based on a photo by Myra Albert Wiggins: