Who keeps making up
questions too hard
to answer? the doctor
who puts his finger on it
says bad eyesight might be
Two to six inches of ice
will take down pines
and bust the magnolia’s
beautiful snarled branches.
We’re afraid we’re still hard
at work in our busted houses,
we haven’t learned our lessons,
we still don’t like each other
stake is wrong
if it thinks
it’ll bury itself
in our blood-sucking
hearts, it can forget
what it’s taken
for evidence. Let’s take
the cure, cooling
the vapors that rise
from hot waters,
let’s make provisions,
let’s have the doctor
set the table with knives.
Let’s every day eat the forbidden
apples even out of season,
because we can’t be certain,
be certain we’ll decide
to be deadly, to be thorns,
we’ll take sides.
from her book All You Have in Common
Used by permission of the poet.
by Laurie A. Williams
Read the poem aloud.
Have students look for weather facts in the poem.
Have students look for elements of nature.
Have students look for biological information in the poem.
Look at lines 3-6. What can bad eyesight be the beginning of? What causes bad eyesight? How do our eyes work? What is near-sighted and far-sighted, stigmatism, other eye ailments?
Look at lines 7-10. What causes ice on trees? Where is a branch most likely to break? Why? How much ice does it take to break a large limb? a small limb? Does an older or younger tree make out better in an ice-storm? Does the type of tree make a difference in the amount of ice needed to break branches? How much weight can a medium-sized limb support? Does wind help with the breaking? Does the cold make a limb more likely to snap?
Look at lines 19-20. Do our hearts suck blood? Is that an accurate term for the way the heart works, or is it a figurative expression?
Look at lines 22-25. Are vapors that rise from hot waters cooler or warmer? How can “cooling vapors heal”?
Students could choose one of the above and conduct research and then write about their findings.
by Laurie Williams
I would begin by having my students read this poem once silently.
Then as a class, we would read it aloud, taking turns at each line. As it was being read aloud, I would have my students circle words they were not familiar with or that were used in an unfamiliar way. They would also underline interesting words and phrases, and make note of any part that was confusing.
We would look at the structure of the poem and discuss the term couplet as a way of identifying a two-line stanza.
I would have students list the types of trouble they have encountered as the brainstorming for a writing piece to come at a later point.
I would also have them come up with answers to the first sentence on the poem, “Who keeps making up/ questions too hard/ to answer?” This information will also be brainstorming for the writing piece.
We would then look at the overall structure of the poem. What is noticeable about it? Does the overall structure look like what we might imagine trouble to look like? How many different types of trouble are listed in the poem?
Does the poem end on a positive note?
After discussing the poem, its meaning and its structure, have students look back at their brainstorming on trouble and who creates questions that can’t be answered.
Have them choose a speaker for the poem: self, character, the trouble itself, the creator of the unanswerable answers, the person who punishes trouble, etc.
Have them then choose a form to write the poem in, something structured and ordered like the couplets Dara Wier used, or something that visually looks more troublesome.
Have them then write a poem that is at least 34 lines long (the same number as Dara Wier’s “Trouble).