The poet Chris Leja

Chris is one of those students who inspire you to be a better teacher. He is also someone who inspires me to be a better poet!

One of the coolest things about my time at Polaris was watching the students get excited about poetry and, especially, poetry slams. We started a poetry club and did everything from read to each other to word ticket poetry to slams. Some of the greatest times I've ever had, and its no hyperbole, were working with these students and watching them thrive as poetry.

When I have the technology (seriously, a stupid little cord) I will post video of some Polaris students slamming last year.

Chris won the slam with the poem below, and in some lame twist of fate I wasn't there but was thinking about going! I knew he was in Fort Collins (he now is in college in Washington and was in town for winter break) but I didn't know he'd be there.

Luckily, I was still able to read it and it simply floors me! And I'm sure it will floor you as well!

by chris leja

Charlie was a soldier.
A rebel without a cause,
A poet without a pause
And one of the greatest tragedies I've ever encountered in my life,
The only man I've ever met who could make dying beautiful.
See, when Charlie got home from Iraq,
He borrowed, stole, Drank and smoked
Just to keep breathing. Because the weight of the world was a noose around his neck,
A boulder on his chest, crushing every breath,
And every step was a battlefield,
Between his dreams and his tragedy.
But Charlie was a soldier,
Depressed and isolated,
And every day he seemed to grow a little colder,
A little bolder,
And in his gaze you could see he was stressin' for aggression,
See, Charlie started to get this look on his face,
Like maybe God had overlooked him when he was handing down his graces,
So Charlie wanted a fight.
He fought with the trees,
And all of his dreams,
Tore them to shreds,
Left them for dead sunk in puddles of his blood.
But Charlie was a soldier,
And every day was a warzone.
So Charlie learned to speak with a swagger,
Learned to make every word a weapon.
He held his voice like a box of bullets under his breath,
Until he could only speak in threats.
But he wrote some of the most amazing poems I have ever read,
On the backs of old love letters,
And whenever I'd ask him why,
All he'd say was that "Ink never dies."
But Charlie prayed that in his vices he could find
Some previously unforeseen insight into the mind of God
And with a cigarette between his lips, he finally found it.
So he blew the world a farewell kiss,
And whispered, softly, "Life, you're beautiful. It's not you, it's me.
It's always been me. And I'm so sorry,
That every embrace leaves me feeling tawdry,
Like the world is clean, but I'm filthy.
Don't touch me, please.
I've got the blood of someone hopeful all over me."
So when he slashed his wrists,
He held them up to his lips
In a toast to life.
With that kitchen knife sunk an inch beneath his skin,
He embraced his sins And died with a smile on his lips.
Because Charlie was a soldier,
And with his veins cut like kite strings, he was finally free to fly.

Nobody cried at Charlie's funeral.
It didn't feel right.
Because Charlie was a soldier,
And he wouldn't have cried for us.


fliffany said...

that is an amazing poem. and you are a fantastic teacher.