Teachers Act Up!

Thoughts on Teaching, Language, and Social Change from Melisa "Misha" Cahnmann-Taylor

Simile & Metaphor

This week the assignment in my poetry class is to write a portrait of a person by drafting a 15-line poem in which you compare (use like or as in every comparison, as element of repetition) the person to a musical instrument, an article of clothing, a food, an article of furniture, a machine, a kind of weather, a landscape, and three other comparisons of your choosing. We are sharpening our attention to how we describe the ineffable in terms of something else and thus notice how deeply figurative most of our language has become.  We look at a newspaper article about Obama “planting a flag in the South” in an emergent campaign and we meditate on all the figurations that work upon us as media consumers and then think how can we produce the most precise language, how can we name what hasn’t yet been said when it comes to teaching, learning, living, voting, and being human.  So as always, I play with the same assignment–exalt and fail, squeeze words in between work and childcare pick up; dinner and bedtime stories.  I don’t know what this poem’s title means other than that I feel released from some part of motherhood that feels draining and end up feeling hopeful and more alert to my beautiful daughter than before the portrait exercise started.  Yes, yes, one more cookie, only one more. [can’t seem to get my stanza breaks and line arrangement here….but it’s a draft anyhow!]


Like a toy tossed
too many times down
stairs, Daughter, you repeat

your demanding refrain
off key, stuttering first parts
again and again like a miniature

shopping cart rolling
back and forth on a cat’s tail.
Discordant jangle,

you rattle my favorite earrings
past air vent slats as if they were tiny cymbals
and you, the rich owner of a tuneless

symphony.  My toddler angel
and your song for more juice,
a bandaid, shorts in the middle of winter,

a glass slipper meant for a doll
to fit your big girl toes, may you rehearse
requests so they fall like mist

on an aging Donkey’s easily spooked
ears, may you vocalize scales
of politeness and climb

gracefully on the arm
of that precarious sofa upon which,
perched like an impatient bird,

you coo
     please please please
for a second cookie to drop

from your heaven.

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