Janet S. Wong - Author of Acclaimed Children's Books - Poems and Stories
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Poems and Stories by Janet Wong
Poems and Stories by Janet Wong
Good Luck Gold
Old Friend
In Mother's Shadow
Daddy and Shin
When a Cop Stops You
Gonggong and Susie
Declaration of Interdependence
Coin Drive
Bubble Troubles
Poetry Quiz
Coin Drive
by Janet Wong

The following poem and commentary are excerpted from my essay in POETRY ALOUD HERE by Sylvia Vardell.

I wrote “Coin Drive” a week past Hurricane Katrina, as a way of making sense of the disaster; as an expression of confusion and sorrow and anger; and in hopes of making someone else see the way I do. What this poem offers, in my view, is an invitation to question, to wonder, to examine our own feelings and ideas about this disaster and the failed response to it.

Some people will say: children are too young to have to think about such things. Perhaps we should shelter them. We should, if only we could. The fact is, though, that most families are not that careful. The TV is on, and so the children have seen the scary looting and shooting; the magazines in the supermarket have shown the dead bloated bodies, planting nightmarish images in our children’s minds. Because our children have been troubled, they now deserve an explanation. They deserve to hear the complicated and unpleasant stories behind the trouble.

    Coin Drive

    There’s a coin drive going on at our school
    for children hurt by the hurricane.
    Teacher says, “Handful of dimes is fine.
    But only give if you want to share.”

    Momma says, “Those people should have known.
    Should have done more than they did to get out.”
    Poppa says, “Look how those people stole.
    Criminals. Animals, them. Their kind.”

    I saw the pictures, too, myself.

    People with nothing, no cars, for sure.
    Swollen old ladies could barely walk.
    Crazy boys with stolen guns,
    but also daddies grabbing bread.

    I saw the pictures, too, myself.

    So many bodies floating, dead.
    Waiting, water creeping up,
    up past neck, past mouth, past eyes.
    How long did they wait for help?

    I feel proud for the fifty cents
    I put today in the coin drive jar.
    I feel proud that I can say:
    I saw the pictures for myself.

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Copyright © 1999 Janet S. Wong. All Rights Reserved.