Poems about Place
from Chelsea High

In March, I spent two days with 9th and 10th graders in the classes of Jackie Gagnon and Jenny Lavigne at Chelsea High School in Chelsea, Massachusetts. (See "About the Teachers,"  below.*****)

We studied and wrote poems on place. First, we viewed some poets reading their poems on the video, The United States of Poetry, including "Driftwood Feeling" by Henry Real Bird and "A Testimonial" by Sparrow. The we read two poems, "There's an Orange Tree Out There," in both Spanish and English by Alfonso Quijada Urias and "The Farm When I Was Five,"  by Grace Butcher from her collection,  Before I Go Out on the Road (Cleveland State Poetry Center, 1979)

Finally, I shared with them my poem "Gananoque" in the form of a broadside. (See in blue at the end of this web page.)

Then students drafted poems that day about significant places in their lives. They worked on revisions with me and their talented teachers.  I chose a few of my favorites. Below, you will find them, poems by Kirsten Byrnes,  Karen Castillo,  Brenda Contreras,  Krystal Crespo,  Jacqueline Feregrino*,  Mark Gomez*, Maritza Rios,  Vilma Rojas,  Caitlyn Smith,  Yajahira Tejada,  Raquel Tice, and  Hoai Tran

                                                                                         --Diane Kendig, Writers in the Schools

*Poems by Jacqueline Feregrino and Mark Gomez won honorable mention in the New England Poetry Club's 2005 Ruth Berrien  Fox  contest for best poem by a Massachusetts high school student.

 My Grandmother’s House

It’s the one place I think of where I’m happy.
Almost my whole mother’s family lives there.
It’s always clean, never messy.

It has 3 floors, the third floor a terraza.
She does all her laundry up there,
By hand, not by machine.
As she does her laundry,
I sit on the edge of the terraza,
And look out and see as far as I can,

by Karen Castillo

My Backyard

Got my scrape here
My first stitches too
Ran here for sanctuary
From the big dog next door
Bad memories here
But yet
While swinging in a hammock
Falling into a deep sleep
My hands dangle, feeling the damp dirt
Looking up at the leaves that wont let the sunlight through
It’s my peaceful place,
My backyard

By Brenda Contreras


I step on the 111
dispense my change
Ten minutes and I'm in Boston

It's so diverse here
Faneuil Hall is more upper class
Downtown is more grounded
And today Downtown is my destination

As I walk I look up a the buildings
staring down at me
I admire their beauty, their height

Then I'm interrupted by a sweet smell
It is Boston's roasted nuts
The remind me of past years
I remember asking mom,
"What's that smell, is it cupcakes?"

Here , you can ride on a swan
Feed some ducks
And when the day is done...
I step on the 111.

by Krystal Crespo

Coral Hill 

Escaping the heat of the house, 
 I ran, chunks of coral crunching under my bare feet. 
A mix of rain and flower pollen hung in the air
The briny breeze brushed my face and my summer dress.
I laughed as I imitated Marilyn Monroe.
The swishing grasses of the field of flowers
Blue, red, yellow dots of color blew back and forth serenely around me
As the ocean, far off and frothing at the hill’s base, 
Waved and flashed its shades of green and blue in the receding sunlight. 
Sitting down on a safe-looking edge
I waved back at the ocean
And fell onto my back as the stars began to find themselves.
The moon, 
That enormous crisp of white, washed me in its silver glow
And the last thing I remember before drifting off
Was a crunching noise of coral, 
As my mother walked over, picked me up and brought me back inside. 

By Kirsten By

*Honorable Mention, 2005 Ruth Berrien Fox Award
Best poem by a Massachusetts high school student:

The Alley

 Riding down the street
 bumpy, trying to avoid a crack
 crashing into weeds
 scraping my arm,
 a deep gash with sticky non-stop blood
 crying to my mother

 Moving away from that Alley
 A new street
 no cracks, no weeds
 smooth like a tortilla
 Bike rides smoothly
 Ha,Ha to that Alley

 No more scrapes, bruises
 just scars from you

By Jacqueline Feregrino


Marco Island

There is this one place…
I still remember the sun on my face
The hot sand between my toes
The sweet smell of guava in the air
The sound of the waves crashing on the rocks
The sight of white waves while my cousin splashes
And the taste of citrus in the iced tea my aunt made
Sometimes when I am alone in my room
I think back on this place
And get a warm feeling.

By Caitlyn Smith


The fiery orange fire hydrants marked the spot.
Looked at through soaked eyes
As the dark crystal rain
Fell onto the once pure
And now darkened pavement

Secrets of the past.
To the many heavens
Sadness yet happiness surrounding
This place encased in memories.
An unforgettable time of growth.

By Raquel Tice

Lady Next Door

Lady next door 
yelling and screaming
All night long
Always restless

Refrigerator hums loud
The chairs scrape the floor
Oh how I dislike 
The lady next door 

By Yajahira Tejada

26 Front Street

Where the stairs creaked and the shutters were all 
     worn out
Where I fell down the stairs and scratched my knees 
     and elbows
Where the memory of my grandmother will forever 

                   That old house

Where the scent of peaches was always present
Where the violets which rested on the windowsill grew 
     more beautiful each and every day

That old house which doesn't seem so old to me
      looks the same as the other houses on its street

Yet is somehow the most beautiful house there

That old house, where I grew up
       isn't so old afterall because its memory is as new 
       as it could get

I will never forget you, My Dear Old House

By Vilma Rojas

Chelsea Walk

The Chelsea Walk on Broadway,
Brings back my childhood memories.
As I’m strolling down Chelsea Walk,
In the back of my mind I see a little girl.
Running and giggling,
   Playing hide-and-go-seek with her father,
   She looks around and sees all these bakery stores,
   cars and hear voices of people talking,
        And looks up as she sees smoke coming from the top of restaurants.
This little girl was me,
Till this day I’m still standing here,
 And still looking up at the thick smoke, 
Coming out from the chimneys.
Smelling scents of food,
and hearing the voices of people talking noisly.
  I’m thinking to myself,
That some things do last,
Like the Chelsea Walk and the relationship I still have with my father.

By Hoai Tran

Second Opinion

I used to live in Florida
And it's a beautiful place to live.
I had wonderful times there.
We would go to beaches and lakes
That were so clean
That you could see right through,
As if it were glass. 

We went to the pool almost every day
Because the water was so warm,
Unlike the ones here that are
As cold as an ice cube
And take awhile to get used to.
You will never see anything like that here. 

But, I never want to go back!
That's where my parents split up.
Whenever I go to visit
I remember the day 
My father left us.
I felt as gloomy as a night sky. 

By Maritza Rios


*Honorable Mention, 2005 Ruth Berrien Fox Award
Best poem by a Massachusetts high school student:

Maybe Breath Travels Air

Those grimy, slippery stairs.
Descend the concrete steps fused with worn gum
Now Dry and Cracked.
Enter the line, wait for the troll to slowly
Give his golden coins, as the rush goes by
That’s another twenty-minute wait
Who shall entertain me?
Saxophoneman works on Tuesdays
His art varies, so bebop, so bossa nova.
Guitarman works on Fridays
Cracked Voice over a dull and uncivil crowd.
Magician is a chance, Mondays or Wednesdays.
If you’re lucky, you get to see the lime disappear.
No matter
Walk Down to the tracks, a vast tunnel 
Only given the light of man
-Made products, no sun to guide the way.
Rumble above, Rumble below, as common
As the coo’s of pigeons to the innercity ear
Walk up, check the number on the dirty window
It comes to a stop, grab hold of the silver bar, 
walk inside
The World Of Culture
Pimp to the left, Single Mom to the right
A sullen old man, a yuppie on her cellphone
A drug dealer, a queer
A suit and brief case, a drunk 
An anarchist, a conformist
An entrepreneur, a procrastinator
The pious, the selfish
The right, the wrong
A sea of Lifestyle and Diversity,
All in front of me
Oh and the Haitian guy driving behind me
Grab my seat, look out the window, let the 
World Disappear through the Tunnel.

By Mark Gomez




 Jenny Lavigne & Jackie Gagnon

Jackie Gagnon (right) has been an English teacher at Chelsea High for 33 years, but, as she says, "who's counting?"

Jenny Lavigne (left) has been a teacher of English, Literacy, and Writing  at Chelsea High 
for 12 years and says, "I think this is the  best job in the world." 




By Diane Kendig

  “I’ve  recovered  my  tenderness by  long-looking”
                        --Theodore  Roethke

    Never trouble or pain sits me down,
   but the tired of fighting them.
   The scab’s itch stays
   and the tic in the left eye says,
   close shop and don’t feel anything.

   So I’ve sat these days seeing
   the morning bandage unwrap the river,
   a thousand islands rise green as new bark,
   wearing red mushrooms, longspur, horned lark,
   wild snapdragons, a million trees.

   Those trees reach the way of last winter’s wind,
   as have I.  I let go and watch
   the Milky Way settle into the sky,
   alight with being upheld, and I,
   I’ve recovered my tenderness by long-looking.

  This  broadside  was  created  for  the  students  of   Chelsea   High  School  on  the  occasion  of
             their  writing  place  poems  with  the  poet  in  March  of  2004.

Copyright Diane Kendig 1995. First published in Exit 13.