Poetry Month Day 27: Once Upon A Time

Of the ohsomany
soapboxes I yell from,
there’s one that lies
at the bottom
the one upon which
all others stand

It’s the one I first uncovered
in the dimly-lit museum
at the base of the Gateway Arch
as I listened
rapt
to the storyteller

and I couldn’t even tell you
who it was
and I couldn’t even tell you
what they told
just
that I wanted to be
up THERE
doing THAT

And it was this soapbox
that got me my first teaching job
after the interview was over
when the principal came back into the room
and said
you said you were a storyteller
tell us a story
and so i did

And it is this soapbox
I get to dust off every so often
when I visit a classroom
and share in the magic

And it’s no surprise to me
the way they listen
the way the rowdiest
the goofiest
the trickiest of all to reach
the squiggliest cans of worms
stop to listen
rapt
(I knew they would)

And it’s no surprise when
the struggling readerwriter
stands on that soapbox and
flies
shines
thrives
when it’s their turn
to speak what’s in their bones
(I knew they would)

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21 Responses to “Poetry Month Day 27: Once Upon A Time”

  1. Tim Gels Says:

    “The best arguments in the world won’t change a person’s mind. The only thing that can do that is a good story.” Richard Powers in The Overstory.

    Sharing a story has such power, and I love helping students learn that. Thanks for sharing yours!

  2. Fran Haley Says:

    Dear Lainie – you ARE the consummate storyteller, and I am over here shouting “PREACH!” like you can hear me. We remember stories; stories make us think and feel…story moves the world. I’ve said that I think of myself as more of a storyteller than a writer.

    the way the rowdiest
    the goofiest
    the trickiest of all to reach
    the squiggliest cans of worms
    stop to listen
    rapt…

    They can’t help it. That’s the power of story.
    Keep sharing the magic ❤

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! I’ve realized how much storytelling slides into my style as a writer as well. I really want people to HEAR my words in their heads. As for those rowdy squiggly ones, I LOVE it when teachers see with their own eyes what story can do for them…

  3. mgminer Says:

    I would love to hear you tell a story. When you have felt the magic and stillness of a whole classroom of students, you know it’s a good story. Nothing like that feeling!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Exactly! There’s actually a term for that – the “storytelling trance.” It applies to grown-ups, too!

  4. vivian chen Says:

    What a wonderful poem! It is amazing what good storytelling can do to a room full of kids and adults for that matter.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Actually, adult storytelling is one of my absolute favorite things. Some of my best gigs have been grown-ups, and I’ve had a great time blurring the line between story and stand-up….

  5. Raivenne Says:

    For the past couple of months that I have followed you in this blog, I can say without hesitation you are a storyteller. And a wonderful one at that. It’s more than fidgety children you hold rapt with your words.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks, Raivenne. It means the world. I’ve realized over these past months how storytelling-ish my style actually IS – there’s probably another post about that coming, I think.

  6. arjeha Says:

    Storytelling is a gift and not everyone has it. You do. And, you share your gift, how wonderful. A good storyteller has the listeners with the first spoken word. I am glad you share your gift with so many others.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thanks! Although part of my soapbox is helping other people realize they’re better storytellers than they give themselves credit for! As for listeners, it never ceases to amaze me how entrancing a good story can be. I have some colleagues who blow me away. I just aim to do part of what they do…

  7. litcoachconnection Says:

    I love this post! The power of storytelling is real and I appreciate that you close with the reminder that our striving readers are often the best storytellers!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you! In past years, I’ve done storytelling groups, and I’ve always asked for the kids who are great TALKERS regardless of reading level. I love how deeply they surprise their teachers with their talents (but I’m also maybe sad that their talents come as a surprise)…

  8. theapplesinmyorchard Says:

    Lainie! Oh, how I wish I was a better storyteller! I am too long-winded. However, that said, I am passionate when I teach about subjects for which I care deeply, and that passion is felt by my students/audience (or, so I am told). But, to be a true storyteller is a gift. I am so glad you got to dust it off – and hope you get to do so more frequently.

    As an aside – I am reading the Overstory now for the first time. Tim’s quote is one of the best lines in the book. Yes, bump it up on your list.

  9. edifiedlistener Says:

    Praise to the soapboxes on which you stand
    Praise to the storyteller in you
    Praise to this forum we have to gather
    Praise to the opportunity when stories choose us
    Praise to standing up, not letting up
    Praise to finding out why we’re here.
    Tell us a story, Lainie
    We’re listening.

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