Homemade Applesauce

Photo by an_vision on Unsplash

As a kindergarten teacher,

you understand

how children love to do

so many

many things

with their tiny, little hands.

You carted out into the kitchen

a metal mechanical creature,

and clamped it to the wooden kitchen table.

Red and silver, gleaming,

it bit into the red apple,

teeth finding purchase 

through to the


I watched 

as you cranked

and the little red apple

spun and spun

round and round



from its peel.

I watched

as the apples spun,

and were cored,

cut up, and 





But there is still a mystery

or two.

How did the apples become applesauce?

What happened in that pot?

What’s next?

Can I try?

What’s that?

And how much strength

does it take to 

set the clamp,

to turn the crank,

to plow forward with each task at hand,

leaving curious questions unanswered?


you understand how children work,

why didn’t you let me work

with my tiny, little hands?

Did you let me work?

Did you let me help?

I can’t remember if you did or not.

Why do our brains fail us?

Why do only small remnants of memories remain,

like the peels that 



the table 


the floor,

rather than the 







My chest feels

Like someone is


On it

Pressure bearing down,

And with

Red angry eyes.


My chest feels

Like this because

My brain

Is reeling with

Negative nostalgia

Thinking back to

College years

Not with rose colored glasses

But with glasses

Broken and bent,

Dirty and dark.


I feel like I can

See clearly

Though the lenses

Are smudged,

Like I’m seeing



Accurately for the first time,

Like I had one eye closed

And only just now


The other one.


Those are not

My friends.






And among them

A few


I’ve allowed to sink,

But wish to


From the infernal, swirling sea.


Then maybe

This demon

Would step right


Of me.

Eyes on the back of my head!

When I was in preschool,

My teachers, they’d tape

Eyes to the back of our heads

As a reward for sleeping.


Creeping around they would

Tape green, blue, brown, purple…

Eyes to our hair, and I wanted them.

But I had miles to go before I’d sleep.


Me, I’d jump around on the makeshift cots,

Grabbing another girl’s hand,

Pulling her into my four-year-old freedom.

Tip, tap, tip, tap. THE TEACHER’S COMING BACK.

To our beds, to pretend we’re sleeping.


Quiet, breathe, in, out,

She steps


The room.


Blinking, blinking,

Eyes, they close,

The blanket, warm

Upon my nose.

I had miles to go before I’d sleep,

But now,

I think,

I might.


I awake,

Eyes blinking,

A mile wide.

My hands jerk


To the back

Of my head.


I feel!



Just above

The nape of my neck!


I had miles to go before I’d sleep,

And now–

Mine to keep–

I have earned!


On the back of my head!


A twizzler, half-eaten, sitting on a chair

Is better than finding a pile of hair.


Strange things my students do–

Oh, do I have stories for you.


I once had a student, Michael M.,

Who questioned all students, asking ‘em,


“Can I have just one of your hairs?”

For him, each peer plucked out one of theirs.


Curly and straight, blonde and brown:

The hairs in his hand caused me to frown.


“Michael, this is weird,” I said,

“Taking hairs from your peers’ heads…”


He looked at me like a deer in the headlights.

Then he threw them away to avoid any fights.

The Phone Call


I just received a phone call from myself.

My phone, vibrating in my hand, glowed with a number: 712-780-8844, my number. Queasy confusion attacks my already-nauseous stomach. I set my snotty tissue upon the pale wooden coffee table before me. Student stories are strewn across the table, waiting to be graded, but for now their only company will be my Kleenex. In my cold medicine haze, I swipe my thumb across the screen to accept the call.

“Hello,” I say. I sniffle. Silence. I take the phone away from my ear. The screen lights up. I check again, and yes, it is my cell phone number. My brow knits itself into a knot, as I put the phone back to my ear, and repeat:

“Hello?” I hear my voice on the other end of the line, simultaneously repeating the same greeting. My initial reaction to this is to say nothing, to wait, to listen, my eardrums beating with anticipation. If it is myself on the other end of the line, she must be doing the same.

They say that in time travel, you must be careful never to meet yourself, for it would cause a paradox, or otherwise that your present self would not be able to handle the impossibility. I consider this for a moment. I’m not really meeting myself though, just my voice. And I am sick out of my mind, so at the time I believe this paradox is a possibility.

I sit up, straight-backed on the couch. And then, I hear it, a nervous clearing of the throat. My hand reaches up to my own throat, as though checking to make sure the noise did not originate here, on this side of the line. Again, I hear it: hem-hem-hem. But my own throat, though sore, is still as stone beneath my cool fingertips.

A sudden, strange calm spreads over me, my hand landing, a careful sparrow upon the cushion beside me. “Are you there?” I try again.

I swallow. A second passes, and another, and another. My curiosity crumbles into doubt. I’m starting to question my sanity. Here I am, sitting in my living room, answering a phone call from my own phone number. Did I press a button accidentally, prompting the call? Did I take too much of that sickly sweet syrup? Am I dreaming right now? Am I going crazy? And still, my curiosity creeps in on drawn-out clawed paws, wondering whether I’m about to have a conversation with myself, when I hear her–me.

“Yes,” she says, with a slight scratchiness and a definite lower tone than my own voice at present, but I know it instantly. She is me.

“How are you–how are we–?” I start, the right question escaping me. I lean forward, as if doing so will help me to be closer to her, to hear her.

Then she speaks, an urgent but calm purpose emanating through every word.

“This is the first time we’ll talk, but it won’t be the last. Listen carefully,” she pauses.

“Yes, of course,” I respond. I listen for background sounds, trying to gain clues, when a siren sound rings through, soft, distant, but there.

Then she says, “I’m trying to save us.”

I don’t even bother asking from what or from whom, and to this day I’m not sure why.

“Okay,” I say. I stand up and rush across the room, snatch up a pen from my “Best Mom Ever!” Mug, with the little e’s written backwards, and I start to write on the back of the CVS pharmacy receipt from yesterday morning.



10:49 a.m.

This is today. This is now. This is a record that this, right here, is happening.

“What do I need to know?” I say, ready to write more.

I can’t tell you why I accepted this phone call, or why I immediately accepted this impossibility as possible, but what I can tell you is that until you talk to yourself, you won’t know the connection, the trust, the love I feel and know even now. And I know you’re sitting there angry, perhaps livid at how fictitious this whole “scam” this must seem, but it’s true, all of it. It’s even more important that you banish your doubt like I did mine. These phone calls saved my life. This story may save yours. I beg of you, take a deep breath and a chance. To let me save your life,

you must turn the page.

Lazy Eye

Lazy Eye

This comic is a homage to the fact that as a child (and even high school student) I struggled with navigating the waters of a lazy right eye, which just wouldn’t cooperate with me. Since then, I must have done some strength training, or maybe I dream really hard. My right eye is active and healthy, and I have learned to sympathize with my students who struggle with lazy eyes, or even anthropophobia, a fear of people, which may include a fear of eye contact. The struggle is real, people.

Is this comic as cheesy as a meal of three-cheese grilled cheese with a side of four-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese? Absolutely it is. But I hope it injects a little more empathy into your interactions with others today.




Squirrels! Feet! Squirrels with Human Feet!

Marla & Me (Page 1)

Marla & Me (Page 2)

Marla & Me (Page 3)

This comic “Marla & Me” was drawn in 2010 as part of a Creative Writing class at Penn State University. I was afraid to turn it in to the professor to read & grade & judge because it was just so weird.

Five years later, OH…MY…GOD…I’m so happy to share it because it is so weird.

So let your freak flag unfurl, wake up in your weird world, and maybe–just maybe–craft some crazy comics of your own!




Hands by Sarah Kay (Day 15)

One of my favorite poets of all time is Sarah Kay. She opened up the world of poetry for me AND my students, so to her I am eternally grateful. Following is a link to a recording of me performing Sarah Kay’s poem “Hands.”

Click here to hear!

This poem was recorded using Adobe Voice, a free app for Apple products. I highly recommend using it for a variety of projects in K-12 schools as it’s very easy to use!




April is National Poetry Month! For the month, I’ll be posting an original poem each day. Today’s poem is spoken aloud, featuring my favorite poet, Sarah Kay. Feel free to send me your poems, and I may feature them on my blog!

Join the #PoemADay challenge on Twitter!