I tell my VI graders my favorite word is freedom.
It is a house with many rooms on a lazy afternoon,
and outside the house an overgrown path runs
to the woods, where a speckled stream gargles.
I tell them freedom is made up of two syllables.
The first sounds like the neighing of a runaway
horse, unbridled muscles in his voice. The second
echoes like a blow on the taut skin of a tom-tom.
And freedom, as all musicians and writers know,
is impossible without the discipline of the drum.
My students are impressed by my improvisation.
They turn to writing their paragraph with a will.
I look out the window of this old school building
and there’s the river, sun-lit, rippling green silk,
heading towards the sea. I don’t tell them the sea.
Or what becomes of a cart-horse with no master.
Or an abandoned house. I gently strike the drum.