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Fire at School in 7 Haiku

February 2, 2009

Didn’t they call you?
Marley’s mom asked. They let out
school. There was a fire.

No. I said. No. Fire?
Yes, she said. Seven engines,
one helicopter.

Didn’t you pick up
your son?  No, no, no, no one
called, I didn’t know.

The kids are ok,
a thermostat went bad, an
electrical fire

this morning, one room
destroyed, everything gone, ruined–
the kids are all right.

Later, my husband
asks why didn’t they call us?
Money, I say.

If they call us and
cancel school, they lose money.
Attendance money.

First grade classroom fire

Unlike last Thursday’s poem, where the speaker is not me, this is a true story that happened today at my son’s school. I am still in shock that no one called to tell me there’d been a fire of this magnitude at my son’s school, and that considering the toxic fumes that pervaded the neighborhood hours later, they didn’t choose to contact parents, to let them know what had happened, and to offer them a choice about taking their children home. The children in that classroom lost all their artwork, the teacher lost all materials, and the frogs and other pets died in the fire.

For more poetry, catch a ride on Train.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2009 1:30 am

    how sad! i hate to hear about animals dying. another sign of the times when you cant call because you’ll lose money…

  2. February 3, 2009 2:07 am

    First off, this is great. I’m amazed you had the presence of mind to write haikus. Sounds like a great assignment: write a haiku series about an incident that happened to you.

    Second, it’s not just that I’m aghast that they didn’t call… it’s what floreta says… that the situation is such that a school can’t afford to let them go and has to make that kind of choice.

  3. tothewire permalink
    February 3, 2009 2:21 am

    OMG! At what point do they deem it necessary to call the parents?

  4. February 3, 2009 2:42 am

    to the wire, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

    floreta, i imagine how the children in that classroom must feel, losing their frogs! it was actually a first-second combo. still that’s young to ahve your classroom and everything in it be destroyed as you can see from the photo!

    thanks danika. it was kinda on my mind so i figured i’d try to process it through writing. i’ve done series of haiku and american sentences before–for some reason, simple 5-7-5 centered haiku seemed the right form. i do believe this is the ONLY centered poem to be found on this blog.

    the school principal did call–at 6PM TONIGHT!!! in an automated call more concerned with the fact that school would be held and specific classroom changes! shello, that’s a little LATE!!

  5. February 3, 2009 3:08 am

    Poor kids. Still the frogs legs will be nice for dinner. Your haiku are a perfect response, although how you maintained the control required to fashion them when you must have been so angry. It’s almost like a zen exercise, the most calm and controlled form of poetry to respond to the most trying of circumstances.

  6. February 3, 2009 1:49 pm

    Oh, this is so upsetting to read…I’m in disbelief that they never called the parents. I’m so sorry you had to deal with this, and am very glad your son is OK.

  7. February 3, 2009 2:56 pm

    Very scary indeed. I being a teacher, also horrified by the school’s attitude!

  8. February 3, 2009 3:50 pm

    yes, doing haiku was a VERY controlled response–it made me stay close to the point and not get too tangential and emotional–as haiku requires you to state the observation and let those observations make meaning and generate emotion…

    i’m still in disbelief, fledgling and still shocked!

    gauatami, i’m sure your school does fire drills frequently–hope you never have to deal with a real fire!

    at my son’s first school, there’s was a fire in a trash can in a bathroom and i was there with the k-1 class. several girls were crying and i was holding hands with about 4 children. such a small scale compared to this!! i feel terrible that i didn’t know and that i wasn’t abel to be there to reassure my child–or to see for myself that everything was ok–which i don’t think it was because of the smell.

    interestingly, i found out that if a child is in school for 30 minutes, they get the attendance money. but maybe not if school is cancelled. however, the principal is obsessed with test scores and maybe he is worried more about losing that one day of test prep!

    and the frog legs were too toxic from the smoke, paul, even you wouldn’t want to eat them!

  9. February 4, 2009 12:48 am

    A sad and scary topic…but I really enjoy how you turned “everyday” conversation into poetry. Well done!

  10. February 4, 2009 4:49 am

    Excellent job of reducing a horrible experience to haiku that answers and questions!

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