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Poem: Shame





I have been practicing the first two
lines of a poem by Chung Ling:

“I make fast my white barge
to the bank of the brimming stream.”

One of my students wrote it out for me
phonetically.  I want to say these lines

to the old Chines guys I swim
with every afternoon at the Y.

I think they would enjoy it.  I think
they would like me.  Today there is

no one in the pool but us, and we
are all hanging onto the sides.

I point to the placid water and recite.
They are stunned, and then Mr. Chu

starts to weep.  His friends help him
out.  They disappear through the blue

door.  Later there is a note on my locker,
written on a paper towel, written with

such passion the paper is torn, written
in a language they think I understand.


Ron Koertge is the author of many celebrated novels, including Stoner & Spaz, Strays and The Brimstone Journals, both American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults; Shakespeare Bats Cleanup and American Library Association Top Ten Sports Books for Youth Selection; and The Arizona Kid, an American Library Association pick for “one of the 10 funniest books of the year.” A two-time winner of the PEN Literary Award for Children’s Literature, Ron lives in South Pasadena, California.

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