Now is your time to shine, beloved students.  Share your favorite original poems and short prose with the global classroom.  Consider this a special invitation to English 2 students, both past and present, who enjoyed our poetry unit.

The last thing we want is for you or your children to be inadvertently exposed to vulgar or inappropriate posts.  Therefore, we ask that all poetry submissions be sent directly to Mrs. Pahlow at Mrs.Pahlow@PahlowsEnglish.com.  Please include the poet’s name, age, title of the work, and current English course.

One response »

  1. dpahlow says:

    Sidni Martinez is thirteen-years-old and has been dancing for most of her life. She has studied ballet for five years, primarily at Ballet Austin, and hopes one day soon to become a professional dancer. Sidni attended Mrs. Donna Hall’s English 2 class at One Day Academy’s Bastrop Capstone campus, where she produced this short story.

    A Most Loyal Friend

    I was newly enough thirteen that when people asked me my age, I would almost say twelve. It was some time ago, but I still remember every detail of the day my parents sat me down and told me I had to stop dancing; they couldn’t afford it. Then again, no one could afford anything. It was nineteen thirty-three in the heart New York City, and like many Americans, my family was suffering terribly from what would later come to be known as The Depression. I knew it was bad, but it hadn’t been real to me until that moment, until it took away something that was so personal, so much a part of me, something I couldn’t imagine my life without. My parents searched my face anxiously for any kind of response to the desolating news, but I didn’t dare move a muscle. I couldn’t; I was paralyzed. They tried to comfort me, but their words faded away, and slowly began to sound more like buzzing from a large colony of bees than the words of a sympathetic parent.

    Anger started to boil inside me as I could think of no one who had the right to take dance out of my life. I wanted to scream and fight, but fight what? I did not know: I suppose my parents, even though I knew it wasn’t their fault. Still, they were the easiest target. I was bursting at the seams, burning fury in my eyes, but just as I was about to yell something awful and mean, and completely untrue, I looked into the eyes of my parents for the very first time since we had sat down. They were devastated. It looked like a piece of their very soul had died. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t bring myself to be angry at them. Suddenly, all that rage that had been bubbling inside of me turned into utter and pure defeat. I was broken into a thousand pieces and couldn’t seem to find the parts to put myself back together again.

    I said I understood, and told them I would get a job at the sewing factory down the street. I reassured them by saying that some girls from school already had starting working, and that it would be fun to see my friends again. The money I made would help take some pressure off my family. After we agreed to the plan of me going to work, the rest of the night went on as normally as possible but much more quietly than usual as everyone was tentative in their actions, painfully aware of the spine chilling tension rippling through the house. At some point, I announced I was going to bed early. My mother waited for me by the stairs, worry etched deeply in her face. She kissed me on the head and whispered sweetly, but obviously afraid of the answer, “Honey, are you okay?”

    I forced myself to smile and lie. “I’m fine.”

    I cried myself to sleep that night. Three months passed in the same way, full of tears and denial.

    I got a job that paid relatively well and was working every day but Sunday. With three out of the five in my family working, we had a few extra pennies in the box we kept nailed to my parent’s closet floor that held all my family’s most precious treasures and personal keepsakes. Despite the reality that the sewing factory was a source of some relief for my family, to me, it remained a terrible place. It was gray in color and nature, and even walking through the doors gave me chills. The very building itself was the essence of hopelessness; it was the great monarch of suffering representing all the pain I felt. I had no friends, and the only way to pass the time was to listen to the gossip circulating around my station. With how much I had been working I had actually learned some pretty interesting things: someone was having a baby but hadn’t told anyone yet, someone had done something to someone else and now they weren’t speaking to each-other even though they had once been the very best of friends. It was the normal stuff, nothing very important, nothing at all your business, and it was always supposed to be a secret, but somehow everybody knew. Even I knew, and I didn’t even exist in their world. No one spoke to me; no one even really looked at me. I didn’t fit in, and in all honesty I didn’t even want to. To “fit in” would mean being an active member of what appeared to be a colorless world devoid of dreams. I refused to give up on my dream, refused to lose hope and give in to disparity. I had to fight the temptation to surrender to the reality of circumstances.

    For the most part, things were going pretty well. I was able to ignore my body screaming at me, begging me, to let it dance, and instead I forced myself to focus on making it through a day at work. However, there was one problem: the only route to work from my house passed my old dance studio that was now shut down like most everything else. The abandoned building was a steady and reliable reminder of the emptiness I felt in my life with the absence of dance. I could feel a hole in my heart, and my body yearned to dance like it yearned to receive oxygen. Yet, I had grown incredibly successful at ignoring my own feelings. It was the only way to survive, the only way to adapt. So like all the other things I felt, I stored it away, much like those pennies in our secret box, hidden deep in the back of the dark closet holding all the precious things from a time long past. But soon I hit a breaking point when I could no longer suppress my anguish.

    It was a Saturday when it happened. I was almost at the end of my shift, and the constant buzz of the sewing machines and high pitched chatter of the ladies working were driving me crazy. I encouraged myself, Only ten more minutes in your shift. You can do this!

    The clock struck three. I was finished. But just as I was gathering my things, the supervisor of the factory came to my table and announced that I had to work an extra shift. I was certain that I couldn’t make it through another four hours in that stuffy factory, smelling of stale sweat and desperation. I was about to protest, when he added in an authoritative voice, “Either you work a double shift today, or don’t you bother comin’ in tomorrow.”

    He glared at me, red in the face with beads of perspiration rolling down his face. I knew I had to do it. My family needed me, so I put my things back in order and sunk into the hard wooden chair, settling back into the repetitive and exhausting work and using the constant, flowing whir of the sewing machines as a rhythm to keep me working at a fast pace.

    Somehow I made it. That day had finally come to an end. I was one of the last ones to leave the factory, and as usual I walked home alone. After about a half a mile, I came upon the door of my old studio, but this time I stopped. Suddenly, I was breaking the window and letting myself in. I couldn’t control my body. The urge to dance had taken over. I closed the door and quickly put a board over the window. It felt like I was coming home. The familiar dark-stained hard-wood floors, and long wall of mirrors reflecting the side bars where I had stood at so many times before felt like a warm cup of tea on a bitingly cold November day. I set down my things and kicked off my shoes as I inhaled the well-known smell of hairspray residue and polishing wax. I picked out one of my favorite pieces from Swan Lake and set it on the old record player. I danced for what seemed a lifetime. It was like coming up out of the water when you have been stuck under a violent wave for far too long. Finally, I could breathe.

    This became a daily routine. Every afternoon after work I’d sneak off to the studio and dance for an hour or two and then head home in time for dinner, lying, saying I had worked late or visited a friend, which in some ways was true. Dance was my friend, my faithful companion in lonely times. It was the only way I knew how to cope when everything I had once known was changing. It was still familiar, still as natural to me as breathing. To dance was instinctual.

    I had now been dancing in secret for two and a half months. I had grown used to waking up every morning and, besides packing my lunch for work, also packing my ballet clothes and pointe shoes. It felt almost like everything was back to normal, like I was back in school, and still enrolled in ballet. It kept my sanity intact. But as soon as I left the studio, I was reminded that the world I was able to escape to when I danced, although a beautiful and wonderfully pure place, was not the real world. It was a place of fantasy, a place that belonged in a dream but had somehow miraculously sneaked into the real world and given me the privilege of experiencing it.

    One evening I was working on choreographing an original solo piece for myself, and the piece was almost finished. It was a Wednesday night and already a bit later than I usually stayed at the studio, but I had to run through it one more time. I quickly set the record and took my place. While I danced, I felt so free and full of life. The music whispered in my ear, almost telling me how to move. I was boundless. I finished with a flawless double pirouette, landing in a wide fourth position lunge as I waited for the music to die out. I was breathing hard, and my legs were so tired they felt like overcooked spaghetti noodles. My foot was cramping, and my arms shaking. I had never felt so completely perfect in my entire life. I was content.

    I grabbed my things and turned to go to the dressing room, but there, standing unflinchingly still in the open door way, was my father. We were frozen, and stood just a few feet apart in dangerously sharp silence. As I stared at his face, unable to change my gaze, I saw a single tear fall from his eye. I could tell he was angry, but he was not angry at me, merely at the reminder of all the things he couldn’t give his family, all the things he had once had, all the things he feared he would never regain. He was embarrassed and ashamed, but still for the sake of his family, he hid his defeat. His strength was undeniable. He flashed me a broken-hearted smile and said in a vulnerable and honest voice, “You are beautiful.”

    He walked to me, bowed low and, like a duke approaching a duchess at a royal ball, he asked, “May I have this dance?” I slipped my hand into his, and he hummed his favorite tune while we slow danced to the steady three-four beat, both of us with tears streaming down our faces. He held me there, like he too wished we would never have to leave, but reality sunk in, the sunlight started to grow dim and we knew we would have to be home for dinner soon. So he spun me around, dipped me deep down at the end of the song in a way that made me feel all too grown up. Then, we gathered our things and left.

    We walked home that night, hand in hand, not saying a word. Somehow I knew I could never go back there. I knew I would never dance again. It was a silent agreement. Something about that waltz with my father in the sinking sun had a feeling of farewell, like it was my goodbye dance. We had an unspoken understanding: that part of my life was over. It was clear to me now that I couldn’t dance anymore; I had to be there for my family. I couldn’t keep pretending that everything was alright when everyone else was fighting to survive. I was living where and when I was living, and there was nothing I could do to change that. I had to stop living in the past, hoping that everything would magically go back to how it used to be. My present was my reality, and hope was reserved for the future.

    That night we ate a “big” dinner, played some card games and then went off to bed. The next morning I only packed a lunch for work; my ballet clothes and pointe shoes stayed where they belonged, in an old box under my bed that held nothing more than distant memories. When I came home from work I didn’t stop at the studio or peer through the boarded windows; I just kept walking.

    I missed dancing everyday but I had to put my family’s needs before my own. Some days I thought I couldn’t do it, but then I would just think of my father, and all the things he sacrificed for us, and he would give me the strength to make it through the day. He was my greatest inspiration.

    Slowly, day by day, living without dance got easier. After a couple weeks, I didn’t cry as much, and after a few more, I was more myself at home and didn’t stay so secluded from my family. After about four months, I was even able to make friends at work and join in on the pointless gossip about who was fighting with whom and whose father and mother weren’t speaking anymore. Then there came a day when I didn’t think about dancing, or have dreams about it at night. Like a pencil that has been poorly erased so that you can still see the washed out trace of the words that had once been as clear as day, dance faded from the forefront of my thoughts. I was comfortable in my new life. I was even happy, but it was an incomplete happiness, a happiness in which I had to remind myself to feel.

    Years passed, and by the time I had the chance to make dance part of my life again I was too old to be on stage. But dance was still a part of me; it always had been and always will be. I couldn’t and never will be able to just let it go. Ballet saved me; it gave me hope when I was hopeless and renewed my faith when I could find no reason to have any. It had given me a chance to dream and explore. It gave me freedom to learn and grow. It gave me stability when everything around was crashing down. Ballet had done its job in my life. It had given me a safe place to escape to where I could be freed of all the ugliness and find beauty instead.

    Though I couldn’t be on stage myself, I realized that if I could give someone else the gift of dance, if I could help someone else find her passion and find a companion like the one I had found, that would be my greatest success. So when The Depression was over and I was much older, I reopened my old studio and once again. It became a place of vibrant life and freedom. I made it my purpose to teach others to dance, to unite them with that part of them that had always been missing. It was my new dream, or rather my same old dream refined and refocused: to give others a place where they could feel safe and comfortable while still being perfectly and honestly exposed so that they became their truest, most raw self.

    I taught hundreds of students to dance. I watched as they fell deeply in love with the art of movement, and I saw the joy and passion in their eyes. I had given my students the opportunity to meet with their destiny and the means to chase after their dreams. My passion for dance was realized through every child who learned to love the beauty of dance. Every child who found her truest self in dance was my greatest accomplishment. By helping my students to live their dreams, I was living mine. Each day I was able to watch someone let the worries echoing in her mind be swallowed by the currents of the music, and become free and limitless through her movements. I was able to give someone the ability and the strength to break the bonds that separate soul and body and allow her to find a place of perfect, supernatural harmony. I was able to introduce my students to my oldest and most faithful friend and help them find a companion who, no matter what, would always be there for them.

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