Cris Cucerzan: this is an address to students

Voices - 17 December 2015

A poem by 2014 participant, Cris Cucerzan, performed at the recent Ako Mātātupu event.

this is an address to students

when teachers talk about you,
we call you kids,
as if we aren't just overgrown,
as if you aren't adults yourselves
what with all that you have seen,
all that we have not.
we pretend you are soil,
needing seeds, tending and care
that we can provide
because we are older, we are wise,
we have laurels and experience
and can teach you how to play the game
that the world wants you to play.

we call you kids.
we imagine you standing taller,
resplendent in the world's eyes,
having pushed through the earth towards the sky,
your hands outstretched grabbing at the light.
we want to think that,
when we finish with you,
you are someone greater for having reached higher.
we like to think that
at the end of your years,
you'll be grateful, even if in quiet,
for our toil with the specimen of you
and the fact that our hands were dirtied
as you pushed through and grew.

we call you kids
because there is more to you, yet to be.
if school is the garden of learning,
we find you often marred by dirt.
we try to clear a path so that you can be seen,
so that when the world walks by
it will notice you,
not as an indistinguishable weed
but as a sapling budding with possibility.

we call you kids,
yet sometimes it's hard to.
though biologically undercooked,
the world would feast on your brain sausagery,
treat you as packaged and consumable.
in school, we grind you with the values the world insists are important
and shelve you alongside other fresh meat
in apprenticeships, at university, on the dole.
indeed, the best learners among you
are simply well-seasoned and marinated,
and the worst are crammed into refuse.

we call you kids.
it reminds us you are not produce,
even though what you produce
is actually what is valued in the end.
the world's definition of gourmet quality
is hardly where you come from.
if you find school hard,
it's because we're trying to tenderise you,
and some of you are tougher than others.
we are working to get you onto plates,
hopefully the finest restaurant china.
yet statistics dictate most of you will make it only
into modest dinners or greasy doggy bags.
we don't like to imagine what comes after.

teaching you is difficult
because you are organic,
and the metaphors we use
both nourish and harm.
often in our minutest of interactions with you,
you both nurture and decay.
how we see you, as seed or flesh,
determines who and what you become.
teaching you is therefore a dangerous responsibility
because how we perceive you, transforms you,
and there are so many other metaphors clogging our vision.

it is necessary then, that we kid ourselves,
that we call you kids.
we see too much, and for this reason,
we do not see you enough.
you are precise mixes of mitosis and potential
and perhaps by calling you kids
we hold on to a whispering reminder
to be gentle when we speak the language of your future.