Why I Write at Haven House

Every Tuesday I write for an hour at a foster teen shelter called Haven House, as I have mentioned before. Most weeks there are new kids, and I usually see the kids once, rarely, I might get a second or third chance. I am including two poems here, the second one I wrote to a seventeen year old named Jackson after he seemed surprised I remembered his name (the third time I saw him). I never got the chance to give him the poem as he was gone the fourth week, but I tried to get it forwarded to his case worker. The poem pictured, made out of magnetic poetry by a girl, floored me, as much of their work does.

Why I Love Writing at Haven House

Because it’s one of the scariest things I do.

Because even though I am a grown up,
I still long for people to like me
and foster teens don’t have
lots of reasons to like people.
I love writing at Haven House
because the kids care about each other,
it’s not just I want a home,
it’s I want a home for everyone.
Because the kids there have seen things
and done things and most importantly,
had things done to them
but still get excited about High Chews candy
and going on “ride alongs”
and they all, all of them, yearn for a family.
Because they make me long to do
something searing and holy with my life
and because afterwards when I have
gathered together poetry far braver
than I myself have written,
I get in my car, face flushed
from the heat of holding for one hour,
their lives, and my life having known them,
split open.


Remembering Jackson

I remembered your name,
And a dozen other details about you.
You have a girlfriend in Kelso,
who is clean and expects you to be.
You have a grandmother
in Portland who you hoped
you could live with,
but she wasn’t approved
because her husband,
your grandpa, died a year ago
and she is still grieving.
You were going to help her
remodel her house.

I remembered you didn’t want to write,
but the first time you wrote a little
and the second time
you wrote a little bit more
and the third time you didn’t
need me to prompt you,
you were a foreman finishing the job.

You have really nice eyes,
they are deep and alive,
they are curious and thirsty,
when I think of you,
I see them first,
under your baseball cap,
which is over messy hair.

I remember you go back to drugs
as soon as you leave the shelter
and you don’t want to anymore
but you don’t know how to stop
and I remember wanting to help
you, but not knowing how either.

So many of us don’t know how...

how to change, love, how to heal, hope,
yet some of us, sometimes we do,
we change, we love, we heal, we hope.
I wanted to remember to tell you that.