876: Nowhere Else to Go

Slowdown Kids Drawing

876: Nowhere Else to Go


Major: I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown. This week, we’re doing something special – we’re exploring poetry in all of its forms with kids who write, rhyme and sing about their lives. Our co-host today is Durete. She’s 13 years old and she loves to get bubble tea after school with her best friend Tirha.

Tirha: That’s smart.

Durete: I got mango yesterday.

Tirha: I’m either getting mango or peach.

Durete: Hi! Could I please get a peach bubble tea with extra bubbles?

Major: I’ve never had bubble tea, but the way Durete described it made it sound delicious.

Durete: Satisfactory bubbles at the bottom of an ocean of sugar.

Major: And her descriptive powers didn’t stop there! Here’s how she described Tirha’s laugh.

Durete: Ok, alpaca, moose, cat, and pigeon.

Tirha: I'm sorry, I didn't know my laugh was a coo!

Durete: There’s like, a little moment. It's a nice symphony of animals.

Major: Their friendship started a few years ago at a march against climate change in New York City.

Durete: And I remember thinking you were really cool, because you had your buns, and your different colored braces. And I was like, oh, one day I'm gonna get braces. Looking back, that was extremely naive. I hate braces. I have them now. Umm..

Tirha: Your mom has also always been sweet to me. So having that little thing I think helps as well.

Durete: I think the Black girl and Black girl bond, also—

Tirha: I think finding someone who was a Black girl, but also adopted from Ethiopia. Because, like, getting to become friends with someone who was, I feel like that was something I cherish. And I will cherish.

Durete: Just you know, being able to share anything, even if it's just a drink. It's like, Oh, yay, somebody. You know, somebody values me in this way.

Major: I was so touched by the story of their friendship – I couldn’t wait to chat with Durete myself!

Major: Welcome to the studio, Durete!

Durete: Thank you, Major! It’s lovely to be here.

Major: So – I loved hearing about your friendship with Tirha – and clearly you have a wonderful gift for language. When did you first get into poetry?

Durete: I first got into poetry in first grade.

Major: Do you remember what your early poetry was about?

Durete: Yes, in second grade — I think actually second grade was one of my hardest years, I was kind of going through an identity crisis. Like I chopped off all my hair. I think I sorta wanted to be like my brother. And I also started hanging out with all of the guys in my grade. I wasn't feeling very inspired. So I made a poem about a Phoenix –

Major: What!

Durete: And it was very short. And it was like, “Where did you go Phoenix?” Like “Bring me back my Kleenex” –

Major: That is a brilliant, brilliant rhyme — Kleenex and Phoenix. And when you read poetry, what are you looking for? What makes a good poem in your eyes?

Durete: I look for the voice in a poem – if it doesn’t leave me feeling changed in a way, then I tend to lose interest.

Major: That’s what I love about poetry, too! We can step into other people’s shoes! It’s a lot like friendships – when you know someone so well, right? You can almost imagine their thoughts! You mentioned that you and your friend met at a climate march… and it reminded me of a poem called “Nowhere Else to Go” by Linda Sue Park. Would you be open to reading it for us?

Durete: Sure! Here is “Nowhere Else to Go” by Linda Sue Park.

Turn off the lights.
Wear another layer.
(Sounds like a dad.)
(Sounds like a mom.)

You say hand-me-down.
I say retro.

Walk some more.

(See what I did there,

Your name in Sharpie
on a good water bottle.
Backpack. New habits.
No thanks, don’t need a bag.

What else.
Oh yeah.

Tell ten friends
who can tell ten friends
who can tell ten friends ...
Make enough noise,

maybe the grown-ups
will finally hear

the scream in the title.

"Nowhere Else to Go" by Linda Sue Park. Used by permission of the poet.

Major: That was such a good reading, Durete! Wonderful. So what do you like about this poem, Durete?

Durete: The last line. Definitely the last line. The last line is great. It gives the voice that I'm looking for. And I think “your name in Sharpie / on a good water bottle.” Me and my brother have done that multiple times because it's kind of us marking our territory.

Major: So the – the last line points up to the title, which is quite powerful, right? “Nowhere Else to Go.” So Durete, what does the title “Nowhere Else to Go” mean to you when you read the last line: “the scream in the title”?

Durete: It gives me this trapped feeling. So the scream, I don't think it's a very happy scream. I think it's a scream of desperation. And a scream... You know, what?

Major: What’s that?

Durete: Maybe this is the earth.

Major: That's speaking?

Durete: Yeah, maybe this is the earth screaming, saying “I can't fix you guys. I cannot help myself. Because I'm too damaged. You guys need to help me, you guys need to walk, you need to bike, you need to walk some more, you need to recycle. This cannot come from me.” Yeah.

Major: I love that you just personified Planet Earth as speaking in this poem. That's quite powerful.

Durete: Thank you.

Major: Since kids and teens are taking over the show this week, we’ve decided to play a different word game every episode. And today’s game is –

[SFX Word Wise!]

Major: For this game, we’re going to get three words – two of them will be real words, and one will be fake. It’ll be our job to figure out which one is the fake word… pretending to be real! Does that make sense?

Durete: That does make sense.

Major: Alright. Let’s play! Our words are: Wabbit, Pingledoo and Snickersnee! We’ve got to figure out which one ISN’T real, and WOW. They’re all wacky! Let’s talk this out.

Durete: Okay, wabbit, I'm thinking bolts or nut or something that helps a mechanical object.

Major: I'm thinking a whale that looks like a rabbit.

Major: What do you think Pingledoo is?

Durete: Pingledoo? I'm gonna go with pogo stick.

Major: Very nice. Very nice. And Snickersnee?

Durete: A foreign candy.

Major: Oh, I was thinking candy too. But I was thinking it was a candy that made you sneeze.

Durete: Hmmm. Or snicker.

Major: A snickersnee.

Major: So, which one isn't real? Wabbit, Pingledoo, Snickersnee?

Durete: I think that the imposter word is Snickersnee.

Major: And I think the imposter word is Pingledoo. All right… Drumroll please!

Major: The fake word is… Pingledoo!

Durete: [gasps] That would make sense.

Major: (laughs)

Durete: Do you get to know what they mean?

Major: So here are the real definitions. Wabbit is defined as feeling very tired, weak and not very healthy. So let's use it in a sentence.

Durete: I'm currently feeling Wabbit because of the amount of work I have.

Major: Aww. Snickersnee is a noun, and it is a large knife.

Durete: Ohhhh.

Major: Okay, let's use that one in this sentence.

Durete: My… I wish my snickersnee had a more intimidating name.

Major: Great work, Durete. Now, before I go get myself a passion fruit bubble tea – let’s listen to our haiku of the day. We asked young poets around the country to send us their work, and we received this beautiful poem about the ocean from Anadine in Birmingham, Alabama.

Wonderful deep blue
Ecosystems to explore
Waves crash on the shore

Durete: Explore and shore – that’s a rhyme that I adore.

Major: That is so clever. Look at you.

That’s it for our kids’ poetry special! We had such a great time talking about poetry with these talented young folks – and we’d love to know what you thought of the special, too. If you have a haiku you’d like to submit or feedback you’d like to share, please head to slowdownshow.org/contact and send us your thoughts.