First, the community poem:
A Glimpse of North Dakota, a Random and Incomplete List
Compiled by NDCTE members, Aug. 1, 2023
1. Walking into the chilly ballroom in the heat of July: blinded by the overhead lights, I cannot look above the horizon in fear of white spots creeping in the periphery, perhaps speeding me to early sight loss. When the light settles, people take shape: speech and debate coaches from teacher-me long ago forgotten, a colleague from year-one-me, friends that sing with me and create with me and breathe with me. They all sit around black tables--talking, testifying, talltale-ing--beckoning me in.
2. The ballroom at the Baymont Inn where I witnessed the creation
of a strong friendship– laughter, vacations, banter, separation–
From then on, I knew the power of theater.
Gentle waves whisper a rhythmic reassurance
the universe is greater
than any weight we carried here.
3. Just outside the Baymont,
the air changes with a blast of warmth
cooling, calming wind while the birds chirp and the cars rush past.
Off in the distance, patches of quilt and rolling horizon
bring peace in the chaos.
4. I feel warm under the light of a wide open sky.
I am wide open.
My hair moving in the wind.
Cotton blowing in the wind.
The noise of cars zooming by.
4. The guys in the truck wave. They ride down the country road,
wind pouring into the rolled-down window of a 1974 Ford truck,
the back end open. When cars rush by, they whip away the humidity blanketing my body.
Sunshine sweeps the sidewalk everywhere you look.
5. The boat dock parking: a meeting place, a parking lot,
the God-made-world meets humans. Straight ahead,
teenagers listening to music too loud,
two cars down, a potential drug deal,
one couple on a romantic walk, starting their journey,
another ending theirs.
6. The lights as seen from North Hill:
streetlights cascading the river of main street,
flecks of foam cast from the river’s flow.
Sitting on the triplex roof, fireflies out in the calm, hot summer air.
7. The road into Cannonball as seen from the Furry Friends rescue van:
dogs in the road barking greetings as they band together.
8. Crisp, white farm houses standing like tall ships in full sail
gliding over the oceans of undulating wheat.
The forever sky stretching over fields of bowing sunflowers;
golden light on golden petals.
9. The table is set, the meal prepared–
the conversation settles on us–
expanding and filling the voids of loneliness and the unknown.
For a moment the only thing that exists is us and them,
the clicking of the little chihuahua feet on the floor.
At grandma and grandpa’s house, where there will be, always,
cards and desert.
10. At the edge of the petrified forest, my teenage daughter and her friend
sit in a patient protest against the heat and this hike,
while my youngest son runs ahead like an antelope.
No forest except sparse, fallen trees– once mighty
bark and beating sap, root, fiber, green-needled–
now distilled, hardened, in ruins.
11. Then and now, wind and wild
settling into the North Dakota soil
branching into the North Dakota sky.
Home and possibility.
12. Since music relies on wind
North Dakota is alive with notes
dancing in the air, inspiring us, moving
(Find this poem as a Google doc here.)
Second, the process to create the poem:
1. The English teachers of North Dakota created from this writing prompt document, containing the mentor text "Reasons Why I Do Not Wish to Leave Chicago: An Incomplete, Random List" Excerpted from The Book of My Lives (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25) by Aleksandar Hemon
2. The English teachers shared on their writing digitally or via paper on the North Dakota map wall.
3. Candace compiled them into the community poem and gave it a title:
"A Glimpse of North Dakota, a Random and Incomplete List." She recommends a shared Google document as a place for students to upload their stanzas, rather than the teacher typing it all up.
Third, an invitation:
Leave your glimpse of North Dakota stanza in a comment, adding to the community poem.