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Taking the New York Writing Test - January 28, 1986
by
Liz Dolan


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I touch the future, I teach.             
                       --Christa McAuliffe

 
As Christa launches into orbit
my ninth graders skid across rutted city ice
to the main building, the boiler
in ours having malfunctioned.
 
Since I’m in charge, it’s my fault, of course.
Maybe we could send you into space, too, Ms. D.
I’m already there, I respond.
 
For three hours on backless lunchroom benches
they cram their fertile imaginations
into the small capsules of writing prompts.
 
Christa, cramped in her own capsule,
beams for seventy-three seconds
until the o-rings fail and the shuttle explodes.
 
When they hear, my girls,
who had been exploring other galaxies
on Christa's wings, collapse
their telescopes, regress to peering
into their mirrors, brushing their locks, for hours.
 
The results of the test
are nullified because of a glitch.
 

© by Liz Dolan.
Used with the author’s permission.

 

Purchase a framed print of this poem.

 

Liz Dolan, a retired English teacher who lives in Rehoboth, Delaware, has won numerous awards for her work, including five Pushcart nominations. As director of an alternative school in the Bronx, where she was born and raised, Liz helped increase attendance from 65 percent to 90 percent by initiating a daily program of writing across the curriculum. Mother of two and grandmother of nine--who "pepper her life," says Liz--she devotes several days a week to babysitting in between composing poetry, short stories and memoirs.

 

 


New comments are closed for now.
LindaCrosfield:
Takes me back. What a moment. Me getting my boy ready for kindergarten. The news on. Launch. And then... And at work, everyone so silent. Really good poem. Thank you.
Posted 01/28/2013 11:47 AM
liz dolan:
Thank you all. Liz
Posted 01/28/2013 11:43 AM
debrabruce:
Beautiful.
Posted 01/28/2013 11:12 AM
dotief@comcast.net:
Wonderful poem! So poignant and filled with fabulous images! I was teaching in Florida and passed the library in time to see Christa's take-off and death. We in education were all profoundly changed that day.
Posted 01/28/2013 08:19 AM
rtaylor947@aol.com:
This one is a heart-catcher, and written with admirable restraint.
Posted 01/28/2013 08:15 AM
Buckner14:
Beautifully achieved. You capture both the moment and the meaning.
Posted 01/28/2013 08:09 AM
laurasalas:
I was in college at UCF eating lunch, and we all ran outside (as usual) to watch the shuttle enter orbit. That flash of light, our confusion, and our running back inside to watch TV in the eatery--it's all so clear in my head, still. Sigh. Love the parallels you draw between Christa and your students...
Posted 01/28/2013 05:55 AM


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