Back-to-School Poems

Because it’s that time of year . . .


I have my own school photos this year,
and will send a headshot
to my children and stepchildren
just as they send us – my wife and me –
photos of grandchildren every year.

While some create shrines,
I have my own way to display school photos.
I like to put them away in a drawer
where they lie forgotten for years
until one day I find them again –
usually while searching
for reading glasses or keys –
and so begins a journey
through decades of pigtails and braces,
a tight-throated, stinging-eyed journey
through gains and losses of the past,
with every memory perfectly framed
in wallet-sized innocence.

My school photo

a shy granddaughter’s first day at school

May she find a friend today,
may every lonely child find a friend.
And when she finds a friend –
and they chase each other across the playground
in joyous abandon with no fear of stumbling –
may those who surround her be watchful
and guide her towards a soft spot
when at last she trips and falls.

Poem Notes: I have rewritten the first poem (School Photos) hundreds of times, including in the hours leading up to this post. It’s time to set it free and determine if it can survive on its own. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. I wrote the second poem after learning that a granddaughter had a rough first day of school. Fortunately, she had several friends by the end of the first week and soon had even more.

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Joseph Neely, all rights reserved

Come back for a new poem every Monday.

10 thoughts on “Back-to-School Poems

  1. It was great to see your poem. Every shy child goes through this and I hope they all find friends.
    Well done!! I hope to see more soon.


  2. On School Photos-This poem says so much— love these lines in particular:”a tight-throated, stinging-eyed journey
    through gains and losses of the past,”
    “God Bless the Child”- Is many a parent and grand-parent’s prayer.
    Thank you for sharing Joe!


  3. Thanks for two lovely poems to get the new school year started! I especially enjoy the lines in the first poem about tucking the photos away and stumbling upon them later when looking for reading glasses or keys. Great imagery!


  4. I love poem 1, having experienced discovering my own awkward pictures from long ago stashed with the daughter’s and granddaughters’ memories.
    Poem 2 hit home for me today as I helped in a classroom that will be the home of some children new to our school. The hesitancy during “icebreakers” and recess was so tender, but I know they’ll find their tribes.


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