Portraits in Poetry-Our Wicked Ways

Tidewater Community College and Clarke College Spring 1997 Collaborative Reading and Writing Project

WickedWays cover
Project: We read the poem My Wicked Wicked Ways by Sandra Cisneros, discussed the poem, and discussed our reflections on the poem. Then we each selected a photograph from our own albums and wrote about our photographs, exchanging reflections with a group of writers at our own college and at our partner college.

Tidewater Community College-Virginia Beach students were taking English 112, Literature Online, a Web-based writing-intensive introduction to literature. Clarke College students were taking creative writing. They worked in email groups established by their teachers, D. Reiss at TCC and K. Fischer at Clarke.

TCC Class Photo

TCC Students holding their photographs.

Poems by Students at Tidewater Community College and Clarke College

Hide the Truth

by Lynn C.

Sitting pretty, smiles all
So much behind I recall
Smile, hide the pain
Hold tears rain
Each our own private hell
Hiding alone, never tell.

Richard Ray, the oldest son
Sit there reading, the lost one
Hide in a book
Do not dare look
Yelling, fists are fighting
Let books do their quieting.

Lynn Evans, rebel hell
Has the story here to tell
Running away
Afraid to stay
Off in the world on her own
Lost feeling ever alone.

Joseph Patrick, middle child
Fights could not be more wild
Oft caught fist
No one assist
Yet still, he returns home
Joseph, why do you not roam?

Renee Ellen, baby girl
Cyclone, caught in, storms whirl
Fault not yours
Even up scores
Looking, found love, dreaming love
Heart retreating, lonely dove

Steven Thomas, left there now
Only just finding out how
Overbears dad
Mom quiet and mad
Finding out no defences
Plays running offenses.

Mom thought death to be the worse
Now we each carry the curse!
Did not you know
How pain does grow?
Lurking in shadow, take hold
Learning, seeking, growing bold

Dad you taught us to hide well
Feeling inside, never tell
Fill with smiles
Pain stretch miles
You find the fault in our course
Please dad! Look back at the source...

Sorry I will no longer
Hold secrets, need stronger
Truth now come forth
Know not the worth
Release twisting, grasping pain
Setting free pain, tears rain!


by Cheryl S.

There my father sits smiling,
young and silent
wrapped up inside of an old man's fear.
If only he knew:
How to tell her of his love
How to speak of his dreams
How to articulate his insecurities
How to keep together what shouldn't have been apart.
He is happy now, he has someone else to love; He truly loves her, but he loves my mother still.
There she sits smiling,
young and gullible
with ideas of perfection in an imperfect world.
If only she knew:
That he truly does love her
doesn't seek to possess her
told him of her love just one more time knew that he was responding How to pray together, what shouldn't have been apart.
Just like him, she has a new life
Rarely does she admit that she loves him still.

There she sits unsmiling,
surrounded by love and insecurity.
I wish she could have said
I wish she could have seen
the extras he did for her;
I wish he could have heard
the singing of her heart.
I wish he hadn't been blind to her shame or she hadn't been deaf to his cries of pain. Her heart broke when she left him
Her heart broke when she left her.
Yet she loves them still.
I am not in this picture,
yet I am my mother and father who've
Learned how to love and speak of love
Listen through the pain to hear
Peer through the tears to see
And though the hurt is there
I've learned how to forgive and carry on.
Yes, I love them both
still.


Birthday Memory

by Donna W.

An affectionate parent
offering a strong embrace
and a proud smile.
Displays of emotion
from an authoritarian.

I am smiling.
Contemplating a wish.

Mom is missing from the picture
but the cake was her specialty.
Flames lit with love
dance on top the dark cake.

This moment brings a
smile to my heart.
Father/daughter bond
still in existence.

Stronger, mature, close, special.

Through rough times--
that photos don't capture--
adolescence was hell:
gray hairs and lost arguments.
Intertwined amongst good times.

Sister sits to my left
looking tired and bored.

Isolated.

Will she ever share this same
bond with Dad?
It is special.


Our Zoo Visit

by Audrey A.

This is my mother.
She is beautiful.
She looks like a movie star.
She is wearing clear plastic sunglasses that have transparent palm trees on them, and a dark pink shirt and short set that fit her well.
She is also wearing
her beige sandels.

Here is my brother.
He is not crying.
He stares deeply into the lens
because he is angry.
The surprise, he doesn't know about,
is not here.
It will come later.

My brother will become happy again.
His face will have a huge smile
and he will laugh with pleasure.
My parents smile.
After a while everyone
will forget his anger.
This memory will last
for years and years.
It will be mentioned again.

This is me behind my brother.
I am watching over him.


Little Man

by GAG

Before the D, we were happy
The three of us, my sister, Dad and I.
You can see the new blue wallpaper,
My mother's favorite color.
A change, my mother is happy.
A change foreboding the need for change.

That stupid grinning little man
See his heart is big as he holds us near Unsuspecting that his fishing buddy is taking his "trophy" The neighbors with their grinning handyman "I'll fix it if you buy the beer". He could fix everyone's home but his own
The D is inevitable
The change is lurking behind my sister and I
My sister is still searching for a father I am happy, the distance keeps us closer


In Retrospect

by John C.

My day of freedom
had finally arrived.
The end of an era,
the start of
the rest of my life.

My sister up from Dayton,
my brother, his wife, and
"little John" from Hawaii.
Everyone has come to see me.

The militery man on the right,
his wife at his side,
they share the burden of the child.
The goog off is next,
I'm the hippy on the end towering over all.
The parents in front
cordially smile as the siblings
have fun in the back.

8 years have passed.
Military has become hippy,
hippy is in the military.
Two more in-laws are added,
and three more children,
with the baby's child on the way.

Mom and Ron are married,
but my father lives alone.
One is happy (so they say),
the other is successful.

In the midst of the celebration,
or in the pain the following day,
could anyone have ever imagined
of the changes that make today,
yesterday.


Brotherly Love

by Joel K.

Here i am at 10.
I have on blue shorts
and a white t-shirt.
My long blonde hair
combed straight down.
I lay on the bed
of our old camper.

Next to me is my sister
with her brown pig tails.
She is older than I
by almost 2 years.
She has on blue jeans
and favorite pink sweater.

We are playing games.
Smiles cross our faces.
Then, this is rare.
No hair is pulled.
Cries are not heard.

Little did i know,
things would be this way.
My enenmy yesterday
became my friend today.
She would be there
to wipe my tears,
cover my tracks,
and bail me out.
That is my sister.
What more could i ask?


Lost Time

by Sherri J.

How long has it been since we saw him last?
Years have gone by, so much time has past.
Our Father, now near how long will he stay?
Hold on to this moment it will only last today.

He holds my new child, a precious child he∆ll never know.
He never even had the time to watch my brother and I grow.
My brother, he sits to the right of his side.
His anger and pain, he cannot hide.
No expression on his face,
No forgiveness in his heart.
The animosity grows, it tears him apart.

To see him again and to hold him near
Brings back the memories, I hold so dear.
Unspoken words deep within my soul
A rightful joy in which he stole.

My brother still aches, he feels so betrayed The anger inside will never go away.
I, on the other hand have learned to move on the love for my son helps me grow strong.


Life's Bitter Sweet Memories

by Rod T.

The room is cheerful, in a quiet way.
The fireplace in the background without a sound.
From the bleak cold of winter, to the passing of spring.
When first they met, it was the joy of birth, and yet he knew her before that time.
As they lay upon the floor,
he's dressed for summer that's present outside.
She's comfortable in her pink play suit.
He twirls her short brown hair as she plays, and wonder what thoughts go through her mind.
The keys hold interest is it of
things to come, or what fantastic worlds they will open.
A child's mind is unknown to him.
He can only guess
of this he knows the time grows
short when he must go.

This child of my brother's line,
how we have grown.
Intertwined for this brief time,
sudden remorse, he must go.
Solace in, he will return.
And of their parting, life's bitter sweet memories will remain.


Everything Is Not Fine

by Tara M.

Everything is fine, Everything is good
For he has met my mother.
Newlyweds, happy, perfect, loving.

Everything is fine, Everything is good
Until he meets the bottle.
Can you see it in his eyes glazed over
from their last meeting?
When will he tell my mother that he has found another,
or will she have to find out herself by the bottles
hidden in the closet?

Can you hear it in his voice,
that he's about to yell
Or will we have to find out later,
while covering ouur ears?

Can you see it in his actions,
that he's about to hit me?
And will I tell my mother
or let her find out later
by the bruises on my body.


Handing Down

by Billy W.

Here is my grandfather
slender, handsome, youthful.
He is wearing baggy pants
held up with his favorite suspenders.
See his smile
happy, yet distraught.
What is he to do with his life?
Without a plan, nothing.
With a plan, something.
After 40 years of his life worked away,
he will start a new life;
one fulfilling and rewarding.
He will make his mark.
I see myself in him.


No Tears

by Wanda C.

You were so young,
so small.
Your life was hung
against a wall.
Your eyes showed no fear,
your pain you did hide.
You shed not a tear,
you kept it inside.
You're much older today,
surrounded by men.
I'll show you the way,
if you'll just let me in.
Speak and I'll hear,
go ahead and show me a tear.


Death Becomes Her

by Chad S.

This is my mothers best friend
She is young
and resembles, Olivia Newton John.
She is wearing a bikini,
a tied dyed colored one.
Her bottom half is riding
up her butt cheeks.

Here is my mother
laughing at the remark
that her friend had made.
Her face is a bright red,
with tears running down her face.

That is the picture, my mother
refused to let go of.
It was her last fun time that
her friend and all of us had together.
Everytime my motherr looks at
that picture, she breaks down and cries.

That was her best friend, that was killed in a plane crash a little over seven years now. A friend that opted to fly instead of driving.


A Birthday Party

by Daphne W.

My youngest brother is in the
front row. He is 7 years olf. He
is wearing what used to be his favorite shirt. He is looking over the shoulder of my cousin, Patrick. Who is pre- occupied with something else other
than the camera lens.

However, my cousin, Tammy is
caught on camera. Her hair is in
her usual sytle, two bushy pony
tails. My older brother, Darryl's
attention is toward whatever's in his
hand. You can bearly see him.

I'm sitting beside him looking mad
and evil. As if I am about to cry.
But I can't even remember why.

My deceased cousin Broderick is
kneeling over me to see what appears
in Darryl's hand. My little cousin
Duvonne is standing up looking like a
little teddy bear with his big glossy eyes.

He is the only one wearing a birthday hat at this birthday party.


Never Lost

by Woody G.

As you can see,
We all are here.
Some in presence,
Others in memories.
All in prayers,
Others are gone,
None are lost,
Never forgotten.
Our prayers.
Thoughts.
Memories live here,
Forever.


Dorthea Takes A Lover

by Susan P.

This is my great aunt,
freckled and elegant.
She leans is a lawn chair
near the hydrangea,
her blouse open at the neck,
sun on her bare knees.
Her lover holds the camera.
She does not smile.
She will not marry him.
She will not listen the the ladies,
clicking tongues, gathering like grackle
to muffle her voice, fancy her a bride
with dishsoap to her elbows.
Her naked fingers spark speculation;
she wears desire like lipstick, heavy and damp.
She cries for people she doesn't know
and holds out for the morning moon
and even here, in sunlight, she feels
like a page torn out of a notebook.
This is me, skirting out of the photo,
hair flying, dress flailing. I am little.
I know her as spearmint gum,
lipstick-stained tissues, cigarette exhale.
I do not know she'll die before long.
I do not know she'll leave
her restlessness inside me.


He Is Not Smiling

by Kimberly C.

He never smiles.
He certainly doesn't smile around me.
He is so cold.
A dead fish staring from accusing eyes.
"Why don't you grow up?"

She is smiling.
She is always smiling around everyone.
She is social.
A butterfly flittering, fluttering, giving happiness to all.
"Why can't you appreciate all he's done for you?"

Then there is me.
I am smiling like my mother.
I am her.
An eager young Simba that can't wait to be King.
"Why do they treat me like a child?"

Now, we are older.
Now, we are wiser.
Now we live on opposite sides
of the country.

We haven't changed.
We have only distanced ourselves from each other.
Now we can love.

Time heals all wounds.
The walls in India could tell stories of wounds.
We cover them well.

Like Barney bandaids on broken limbs,
My mother and I smile and tell other tales.
And he is still cold.

D. Reiss
developed 1997 and modified 3 November 2004