PRESENT PERFECT By the Kids in Room 2

After being out sick for a day, I returned to Room 2 to find this poem along with a note from the sub about how incorrigible the class was. I think the note and the poem cancel each other out in some cosmic way. Before my absence I’d been struggling to teach the present perfect tense, assuming I had failed. But apparently not. The poem is written in the present perfect progressive, a variation on the tense I never mentioned. Nonetheless,  the class figured out it was “perfect” for this particular poem. The kids tell me each student contributed a line or two, and Alex takes credit for spearheading and editing the project. – Robyn

We’ve been lost.
We’ve been gay.
We’ve been controlled.
We’ve been bored.
Nothin’ to DO.
We’ve been cheated.
We’ve been crazy.
We’ve been growing armpit hair.
We’ve been eaten.
We’ve been fat.
We’ve been killing.
We’ve been dead.
We’ve been killed.
We’ve been starving.
We’ve been hungry.
We’ve been hurt.
We’ve been abused.
We’ve been controlling.
We’ve been in misery.
We’ve been miserable.
We’ve been paralyzed.
We’ve been staring.
We’ve been bullied.
We’ve been littering our lives.
We’ve been sacrificing them.


This piece was inspired by (a G-rated version of) Michelle Tea’s “Pigeon Manifesto.” It was a group effort, written shout-out-style with Robyn transcribing at the laptop. Collage by Alex, Liyi & Wendy.

I live on Polk Street. It was once a stream but now it is cement. It’s named after President Polk, who started postage stamps and died of cholera, a thing that sounds like college and collar and cocktail but is actually a disease that can kill you with pooing. If you walk south from our school, you’ll find KFC at the corner of Eddy Street where Serenity’s mom and Judith’s mom both work. People in holey clothes fidget near the soda machines, chattering about money or drugs. Once Jessica’s dad had a coupon for ten free biscuits. When we ate them we felt like kings! Keep walking and a block before you hit Market Street, City Hall will light up the sky and the library will feed you books and the park will squeal when you swing on its tire. If you ask Polk Street, “Why do you let people sleep on your shoulders, and why do you let jackhammers drill through your skin, and why do let buses roll down your spine?” Polk Street will tell you, “It feels like a massage.”