The WPHL was thrilled to host the Writers in the Schools writing workshops this past spring. Over 30 students and educators from Miami Dade Public Schools took part in the six-week program led by writers Carmen Pou, Shawbeta Seal, Caridad McCormick, Mia Leonin and Ana Menéndez. Workshop participants learned about ekphrastic poetry, opinion writing, multi-lingual writing, and the short stories of Edwidge Danticat. Many thanks to the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation for their support.
Following are a few samples of student work. Check back for more free workshops in the fall of 2022.
- Nicholas B. Assumpcao: "I Never Noticed"
I never noticed the veins of my father's hands
As he closely grips the steering wheel
His overwhelming strength transforming into a tenderness
Operating the machine carrying his family
His once pure black scorpion tattoo
Turning green with age on his skin
Yet his smile is as bright as the day he was born
Followed with a hearty laugh from his bulging stomach
His caved in chest, an exotic feature,
Passed down to me genetically
I never noticed the small bald spot growing behind his head
As his hair slowly became lighter as years passed
I never noticed that his finger nearly split from a saw
>Had slowly healed and became almost functional
And I never noticed how he relies on his glasses
To view objects up close
Which comes to me as naturally as breathing
I never noticed how much this man
Has had an impact on my life
And how much he matters to me
- Siara Garcia: "Mariposa"
Mi mamá holds a small, pearlescent bouquet in her hand,
the petals like wings made of glass,
fluttering and catching the light with their
Her hands are carved out of mármol,
careful, steady, precious. In her hand is
her shovel, her paintbrush, her chisel.
Monet would weep on his unforgiving canvas
as he tried to recreate
the majesty, elegance, and passion in
this garden, mi mamá’s magnum opus.
Perhaps he'd paint the orquideas or
the pájaros de paraíso. It'd make her happy,
but not as happy as her own painting.
She walks to me, "Do you know que es esto?"
I shake my head, but i want to feel the
|shimmering, sheer white petals between my
fingers, feel them and stain my skin
with their fragrant memory.
Ella guia la flor a mis palmas;
estoy saludando a una relativa
distanciada. Mi mama, impartiendo
su memoria con la flor, sonríe.
- Jenesis Gomez: "Today, walking down the street, I see my mother."
My first thought was, “Oh shit, she’s out of the house.” She’s as lazy as me, sometimes even more. We are very similar in the fact that we’re couch potatoes and feel very comfortable staying at home most of the time.
My second thought was, “What is she doing here”? Is she doing groceries? That’s usually the only reason she’s out of the house aside from work, picking up my brother and the rare times we visit our family.
My final thought as I walked to her is, “I’m gonna say hi. I’m glad I saw her here.”
- Evelyn Llanes: "Going Back"
Hephaestion keeps getting worse. Only 3 days left, and I haven't figured out what disease he has. He won't eat anything. His fever keeps getting worse and the vomiting hasn't stopped. I can't even remember the last day I slept or left the palace. I thought this would be easier; I believed they hadn't been able to save him because they didn't know enough. Yet, I can't save him either.
The damn genius who managed to travel back in time can't save the man she swore to cure.
I thought if I went back one more time and saved the person I admire the most, everything would be alright. If only things were so easy…. If I don't save Hephaestion, Alex is gonna die. But how am I supposed to cure someone of something I don't know he has?
How I wish I had kept my promise, hadn't become attached, traveled back in time only once
'Only a research assignment, nothing more,' It's what I tried to tell myself every day. 'Don't get attached. They will die. You can't do anything about it.' I repeated those phrases 'till night's end. Still, here I am.
I tried to remain unattached but as time went by, I got to see their love blossom, and knowing how it would end, I couldn't step away.
(20 years ago in the palace)
My heart races as fear still courses through my veins. Not because of my situation, a 22-year-old trapped in a seven-year-old body, or because of the assassination attempt that happened right in front of me. No… What truly scares me is her look. The look Olympias gave me as I entered the palace. The sheer coldness in her eyes as she looked down at me with disgust. "I heard you saved my father," an unknown voice says from the entrance of my room. Startled, I look up to see a kid resembling Alexander.
It must be him! I open my mouth, except the words won't come out. What if he's like Olympias? Will he hate me? No, I have to remember, it doesn't matter what he thinks. It's research.
At my lack of response, Alexander throws a wooden sword in my direction. "He said that you're good with a sword," he says. "I was wondering if you wanted to fence with me." Looking into his face, I can see how he and the queen are related. They have the same expression, yet when I gaze into his eyes, there's a certain glint to them. The look a kid gives when challenging their friend. Smiling, I catch the sword with one hand and say, "Bring it on!"
(10 years ago)
Reading one of my books in Alexander's room, while he and Hephaestion read some letters, I look up to see him putting his ring to Haphaestion's lips. Staring at each other's eyes while Fey kisses the ring. The air flew out of the room as soon as his lips met the precious metal. They won't say it, but their love for each other is eternal. Just one look at their expressions, and anyone can see it.
Even when they had just met.
Alex had entered my room, dragging a boy behind him. He said they had recently encountered each other in Aristotle's class, but I could see how they looked at each other. The atmosphere of respect and caring.
We swiftly became friends. Yet, I could never hope to mirror their relationship.
Two sides of the same coin.
"Stop staring, Agne. This isn't one of your stories." Alex says as he stands up from his chair and ruffles my hair. Haphaestion smiles, doing the same thing. They are my big brothers now, and, I swear, I'll protect them even if it's the last thing I do.
"Another murder attempt?" I ask, looking up at the servant.
"Yes, the second one this week," the servant replied.
What am I going to do with Alex? If he loses the respect of the other nobles, they are sure to come after his head. All his attempts to kill his generals were when he was drunk, so ban booze? Who am I kidding? Booze or no booze, as long as Hephaestion isn't cured, Alexander won't come to his senses.
Well, anyway, if Fey rejects this medicine too, he will die. There's nothing left. Tried all the remedies, medications, and even penciling that I brought from the future. The infection won't go away. What can I expect, though? I'm not even sure what he has.
The hallways to Hephaestion's room make me dizzy as I remember all the fun times we had here. Not anymore, though. Oh, God, please just let this work. Wet droplets start falling from my face. No, not right now! I swing my fist and punch the wall. Fuck it. I just want to go back. Is that so much to ask? I knew this was coming… but why? Why…
After finishing wiping my tears away, I enter Hephaestion's room. There he is. Our orbs meet as he lays in bed. Dead. It won't work. He has given up by now. The fire that used to live in his eyes every time he looked at Alexander vanished.
Wait! Alexander. That's it. Running out of Fey's room, medicine in hand, I go find Alexander.
"Come with me," I tell Alex, trying to catch my breath after running through the whole palace. Before he can do anything, I drag him into Hephaestion's room.
Alex is about to speak when, once again, I interrupt him. Getting both their hands and joining them, I say, "Fey, I know you gave up, but just once more, can you give it your all? Not for me or you, for Alexander."
Alex's orbs bulge out at my speech. Sometimes, I really believe he believes his relationship with Fey is a secret. Yet, looking at Hephaestion, I can see something has changed.
It has been 3 days, and I can't believe I beat history. Hephaestion isn't out of the woods yet, but he's been doing much better. Guess my time is near. I'm gonna have to go back…
A servant hurries to where I am. Out of breath, he leans against the doorway for support and says, "Lady Agne, Hephaestion has died."
What? Without giving a response, I fly to Hephaestion's room. Please let him be alive. Please. Yet, when I get there, I know my prayer hadn't been answered. Hephaestion lies in his bed, body freezing and pupils dilated. How could this have happened? He was alright when I left him. No!
Tears fall from my eyes as I spare no effort to bring him back. 1, 2, 3 once more, 1,2,3. You can do it. I continue pumping his heart.
In the end, the guards took me away and locked me in my room.
I hear the rattling of keys. Alex comes in, crestfallen.
"I'm sorry… the guards…" He says, eyes red and hand bruised, probably from punching a wall. He hugs me tightly as if I would disappear if he let go. I have to tell him.
"I'm going," I say, pushing him away. At first, he looks surprised at my sentence, but soon it turns into a laughing face. "I'm serious. Stop laughing."
"That's why I'm laughing, Agne. I'm not letting you go." He covers his face with one of his hands, putting the other one over his stomach.
"You can't do that. I'll leave whether you want it or not." I say, going towards the door.
What's happened to him? This isn't the Alexander I know. He grabs my arm and throws me deeper into the room.
"You will marry me tomorrow and never leave me side," he says as he shuts the door on me and locks it from the outside. "Got it? You're mine, Agne."
Yet before he leaves, I hear him whisper the thing that answers all my questions, "I can't afford to lose someone I love, again."
Nonetheless, I must go. It is for his own good, after all.
Once more, I'll go back. This time, though, I won't let him die. I swear.
- Grace McCarron : "Untitled"
Looking on to the road ahead
I see bumps, and twists, and turns,
While others see the flat water.
- Nora Pages, Evelyn Llanes: "Have Mercy On Us"
Early in the morning
Double-petaled purple lilacs
We were counted
In the center of the street
In the middle of the street
The main street
Where the cars and horses were driven
Where we were driven,.. like cattle
My mind was empty, my father was crying
So shameful, humiliating
Those stony-faced neighbors who used to pinch my cheek
Peeked through their windows and turned their faces
The shame was theirs not ours
First faces of hell and death watched as we passed
Little girl of seven dropped to the ground
Break into tears, seeking my god
Lilacs in bloom: “How are you, my lady?”
The hellish sun: “Forward! March lazy good-for-nothings!”
- Jess Quiros: "The Death of “Us”"
I can’t recall the first time my small
Shoulders shook with the effort it took
To overlook whatever wrong had been committed
‘Cause I had to permit it. At age four there’s
No right to fight back against what you believe
Is a punishment you should not receive.
So before I turned four I’d already learned
That I’d earned every glare, every corner with
A chair, every hit, every word that was spit
At me, I’d earned it. During some act on the stage
We share, rage became synonymous with care.
There’s this quote I once heard of,
It went, “Abuse can feel like love.
Starving people will eat anything.”
Maybe that’s why this string doesn’t
Get pulled, ‘cause it would unravel everything
I’ve ever known to be true in this home.
‘Cause your words should hit me
Like a knee to the gut, but instead
They wrap around me like a thread,
An embrace, while you try to erase
The pain on my face with a smile
That takes a while to turn vile.
Your words have become venom
Dripping in honey and it’s funny
‘cause of all the creatures I fear
It’s the one that shares my features
That brings a tear to my eyes.
In lieu of the monsters under my bed
There’s you instead, standing by the door
And wishing I was four again—a time
When I was easier to trick, to pick apart
Before I grew smart and realized your hate
Was disguised as a prize I needed to win.
But there’s no winning when the board
Keeps spinning and you set the rules,
Making a fool out of me. What game are we playing?
Please I’m on my knees I’m praying for enlightenment
In the face of your self-pitying entitlement.
I wrote a poem once about rage and
It spanned less than a page, but I can’t
Rid myself of it, and I’ll admit that maybe
I’ve nursed this anger like a baby ‘cause
Even at my worst it’s burned within me
And I no longer want to set it free.
So don’t blow out the candle, it’s all I can handle.
It’s hard to forgive the way that we live.
Don’t take my flame, don’t burden me with blame.
Go, play the victim’s role, I know this play in whole.
I’ll wear the villain’s hat, it’s the only thing I’m good at,
Please take a break, please do it for my sake.
This isn’t awe in my eyes, it’s the final straw in our lives.
I don’t want to stay in today, my future’s eight hours away
I was once scared to leave, but I’ve been grieving for years,
Shedding tears for someone I no longer know.I might
Be strong but this show has gone on for too long.
So, though it might tear me apart, for the sake of my heart
I must let you go and try to get back the glow
I had when I was younger, before I turned four
Before this pointless war that will end in death,
Before any notion of “us” took its final breath.
- Ayman Tanzim: "Fleeting: A Collection of Haikus"
Sea—waves rise and fall
Jagged, prepare for battle
Looked for warmth within,
Hearing cold footsteps burst through
And Death was her name
Welcome flowers. Rain and sun
Search for abandon
Rebirth of Natalia
On betrayal—to embark
Moons rise, mutants fall
Hellas to the Land of Grace
Ravens forge vengeance
Rose calls for freedom,
Open space accepts
Clouds cloak cowardice
Heart, soul, and sleet—they shatter
Truth, let the mist fall
The beast swallows the white flag
To Be Free is To
God of freedom? Fiction, lies,
The Accursed Storyteller
Truth escaped the beholder
Father to daughter
Fall of the Stellar Palace
Of blood and bodies.
Sounding cries, falling ashes
All comes crashing down
Spoils of War
The horizons surrender
The Curse of Immortality
Far too long—futile efforts
The gods deceived me
Dons fragile wings of regret
And leaves corpses loved.
Power brings but life
The sun never sets with you
Painting the town red
Regret kindles fire
While reality chuckles
And halts for no one
Of the five faces
Shrouded in wondrous darkness,
Not one sees the same
Thinner Than Glass
Enlightened, I stand—
blood holds false, pathetic will—
and long to be free
Child of the Devil
Trust breaks easily
The lithe youth pray to false gods
And but death brings peace
Lost in Translation
Feigns innocence while I fall
Still protecting you
Time kindles scars of trauma
Monsters of the Royal Court
Small rose, daunting thorns—
Hiding behind bloodied doors
Carved skin, flesh, and bones--
Emotion serves not use but
- Ayman Tanzim: "Red Light, Green Light"
Prompt: Begin with “Today, walking down the street, I saw my mother.”
Today, walking down the street, I saw my mother’s soul.
Every corner I turned, there she was. Be it admiring the view, waving to little kids running by, or doing some frolicking of her own, she did everything she possibly could except look at me.
My eyes are trained on her translucent body and follow her every movement to a tee, yet it seems she cannot see me. Her physical body has already departed the world, I’m no stranger to that fact, yet despite my own soul and body being the healthiest they have been in the entirety of my life, she cannot see me.
Or perhaps it’s the truth I’d rather not say.
Seconds upon minutes upon hours, my eyes never wander off her figure. Her hair sparkled gloriously and its vermillion hue was undeserving of the dull sheen her soul form provided. The color drew me in so much that I couldn’t help but pass by some shrines to admire the torii gates. The resemblance was uncanny.
It seemed that though mother could not see me, she was following me. That or she too wished to enjoy the tranquility the shrines exuded. Honestly speaking, it was hard to say myself whether I came because of her or because escaping the material world while walking under the gates seemed like just the thing I needed. Oh, how I long to visit Fushimi Inari Taisha, but traversing cities won’t be in my favor today.
Soon enough, the novelty of the gates wore off and I grew bored, yet I could never grow bored of her.
Beautiful green, a light green.
My next stop was decided immediately.
Though my home is no more, the Akamatsu Forest will never fall. Blind to living eyes, a feeling of relief consumes me as I enter my soul form, my mother skipping ahead of me.
The akamatsu trees stood tall and high, shrouding the forest floor in darkness though it was pouring daylight mere seconds ago. Their reddish bark was rough and grainy and prickly in defiance, standing tall in the ashes of wars and battles fought on this land. Yet all that remained was luscious grasses and greenery to appease the green thumb I never had.
Yet the highlight of the forest was the green ajisai, the limelight hydrangea.
Blooming flowers littered the forest floor and were the only thing I could see for most of my vision. And finally, the calming crunch of gravel beneath my feet halts as I arrive before the bay. The Matsuura Bay.
The ajisai faded to their reign’s end, and all there was left were red ayame.
- Benjamin Vera: "P.1"
In only rare
It appears, to me at least, that silence remains the loudest thing to capture our minds
And lately I can say I never noticed before, how different it sounds every time.
In the absence of love or company, it’s almost deafening and surrounding
you notice the ringing and the echoes at every corner you used to share that laugh and
Every spot you used to whisper a goodnight.
In the absence of meaning the silence seems to stem from your own voice, from every step you take to the tongues that seem to speak more clearly than yours.
But silence, unlike all other sounds, is versatile
It can be deafening
As is the a pillow to an unrested head at the end of a long day
And lately, I’ve noticed what a gift it is
To know silence for all its sounds
To hear its every voice
And understand its every tongue
Lately I notice,
Silence is a song that sings for you.