Friday, June 5, 2020

farewell: a sunday swaggers challenge

Back in maybe January, when I set the monthly challenge for our poets' group, the world seemed, you know, normal. Regular. Ordinarily challenging, simultaneously bitter and gorgeous...normal.

Now as we face our June poetry challenge, I think I speak for all of us when I say we are shook.  Yes, through March, April and May we were consumed by the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic quarantine online school family displacement disturbing public discourse--but by the end of May we had, as humans do, come into some place of routine.

And then--not for everyone, some of whom live in this upside down all day every day--the world turned upside down again as we watched in horror as once again, twice again, [threefourtentwentyfifty toomanytocount] Black lives were taken before our eyes.

So now the challenge I set back in January, to write a poem of farewell to anyone or anything--which I thought appropriate to the end of a normal regular school year--has even more possibility built in.  

I wrote a duplex last week which was a worthy challenge.  It's not explicitly a poem of farewell, but it is the beginning of goodbye to the belief that "not being racist" is enough.   The inauguration line is a link to this moment from the TV show Black-ish.


But there's so much, so many more, to bid farewell to.  It's time to say goodbye to the 5th graders from my school, many of whom I've known for their whole [school] lives.

I hope this poem captures the odd challenge of this year and the heartfelt connections that will last long past this pandemic.

The Time We've Had

It's hard to say goodbye
      when you haven't said hello 
for weeks and weeks--not really.

I squeeze my own self tight
      and throw a hug through screens--
I mean it but it feels kind of silly.

Kind of silly, kind of sad,
     but this is the year we've had 
and now it's ending--this is it.

And here's the thing I've learned
     from twelve weeks of online learning--

        if you need me, I am here
        if I miss you, you are there
and the time that we have shared
      has marked our hearts with burning--
just a bit.

draft © Heidi Mordhorst 2020

Thanks to our own Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for hosting today, and let's see what the rest of the Swaggers decided to bid farewell to!


  1. Heidi, what a wonderful bittersweet poem. I'm sure it will be especially meaningful to your students. xo

  2. Duplex makes me proud to know make me write better and read poetry more. Thank you. And, The Time We've Had is such a good poem for your students. I hope you are able to send it to them. The 8th graders I will not get to see move on to HS is deeply sad to me. Some may come back and visit. But, they will have new relationships with new teachers by then (as they should) and saying goodbye to what we had is still important to me. Thanks for the challenge Heidi. It is enormously appropriate today.

  3. I honestly thought you were making up 'apposite'. Didn't know it was a word. Such a strongly written/worded poem, Heidi. And as Irene said, 'The Time We've Had', so bitter-sweet; squeezed with emotion.

  4. Wonderful words today, Heidi. From "Duped," which just sizzles, to sad goodbyes to kids you love. <3

  5. You amaze me with your skill. I am feeling more and more that we white people have to do harder work. We cannot continue to perpetuate the racism. Your farewell poem touched my heart with a bit of burning. I don't think I've fully processed that I will not see my 6th graders next year. I think we've been duped that distance learning is adequate. Argh!

  6. The 'what a boutism' is around, but, at least in my corner of the world, less than I thought it would be. Your poem to your students feels like a "ditto" for them, Heidi. I imagine they know you are always going to be there. It's a loving affirmation.

  7. So moving, Heidi! Your poems and blog posts always open my eyes. I need to carry you around like a glasses cloth.

  8. Duped sizzles with so much emotion, Heidi. That clip from Black-ish--Wow! So much hope, so much despair. Brutal. Also, I love the poem you wrote for your students--the strength of your connection to them is so tangible.

  9. Heidi, your duplex is "bitter and gorgeous." The word apposite is a perfect choice: readers have a moment of confusion, then a flash of recognition, as they process your brilliant poem. I'm sure the mark you've left on all those lucky students is one they'll carry in their hearts forever. Hugs to you, my friend.

  10. I think you've got another poem that needs to be sent off to Rattle.

  11. Oh, Heidi--just when I thought it couldn't get more affecting than the pounding of that first poem, you hit me with that second one. What a school year! Hugs to you and your students.


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!