I recently asked students what they noticed they had more time to do during the days of our state's stay-at-home order. One student told me, "I'm taking long bike rides again," and then added after a slight, shy pause, "and I'm noticing flowers a lot more."
There is a vulnerability in 21st century teens acknowledging that they look at flowers.
You have likely noticed that this great pause we are taking tears down some of the walls that prevent us from sharing that kind of vulnerability. Teachers unabashedly confess their love of their classes and their chagrin at being torn unexpectedly from their students. Students express what they miss about school, and the strange new discoveries they are making in confinement, pulling out old crates of Legos, watching backyard birds.
The poem "Cherry blossoms" by Toi Derricotte, is about pausing to take notice of flowers. It is also about togetherness, and the common bonds we enjoy during warmer seasons and our shared interactions with beauty. While our shared interactions may be on hold right now, our common bonds are not, beauty is not.
The first and last stanzas of the poem seems to resonate more than ever right now: our desire to "mingle our breath" and our simultaneous need to be "patient" with social distancing. The crux of the poem creates tableaux of the kind of moments we are craving to return to again.
There is no special assignment to go along with this poem. If you use a poem of the day with your class, it is important to have days where there is no writing, no analysis, no wisdom nugget you specifically hope to impart. Just enjoy the poem. Share it. Marvel at it's beauty, it's relevance, it's heart.
And for the fascinating story behind "the friendship of the cherry trees" in Washington D.C. see the National Park Department's page here.
Brett Vogelsinger is a ninth-grade English teacher and NBCT at Holicong Middle School in Doylestown, PA. He is the founding editor of Go Poems, facilitates his school's literary magazine, Sevenatenine, and contributes monthly posts at Moving Writers. You can find him on Twitter @theVogelman.