“In the Lines”

Bridgette Gallagher, December 2022

I often offer the highest praise in my classroom by saying, “I want to live in that line for a minute, let’s just sit and repeat that line.” It’s something that makes the class pause, listen, and focus on the beauty sometimes of a single moment in a piece. Last semester, I finally put that line into a poem for my Spring semester class. This poem is dedicated to them.

When I say I want to live in the lines of your poetry—-

I’m not just saying it’s good.

I’m saying that I want to reserve this space in my head and this space in my class and this space in your heart…

for words.

I’m saying that I know that there are dragons that live inside of you that need to come out and I will make a place for them here, and you can write and write and write and write them into this seat, into this room, out the window and down the street.

I just want you to write them.
Promise me you will write them.

I want to live in the lines that you write because I want you to be able to remember that someone (me!) said that your words were magic, that your ideas were important, that the fire in your belly is something you should let out.

That fire is not made for dinner parties and networking dinners.
You don’t push that into dresser drawers at your lake house or take it out with your fancy China at Thanksgiving.

It’s your words, your thoughts, the string of love that you tap out on a laptop sitting in a dark bedroom during a pandemic. The sentences made of heartache. The paragraphs that barely can stand, afraid they might weep again.

That’s you.

And I was you at one time but I wasn’t as you as you are today. It took me a long time of living in my own lines and chasing my own dragons and smiling my own words into something before I could say the things that you can say today.

It’s my line, but it’s not *a* line.

I mean it. I want to sit, your words along side me. A blanket, a pillow. I want to feel the warmth of the letters, hear the hum of the sound of the rhyme.

I want to peel labels high school has affixed to your skin like tattoos. I want to see your eyes sparkle, watch your eyes crinkle.

I want your words to be my cradle. As I soothe myself into another year, as I create more ways to help pull the dragons out.

I want you to see yourself at the center of your own life story. I want to see you write through heartbreak, through loss, through celebration, through tragedy.

I want you to help others find their words.

And sometime,

If someone reads a good line of prose,
A killer sentence from a term paper—
Or a vulnerable declaration of love inside a Hallmark card:
I want you to be able to say, “Gosh, I want to live inside that line.”

And think of me.

Bridgette Gallagher is a teacher and 9-12 department chairperson in the Saratoga Springs City School District. She started teaching in 2001 and became a teacher leader in 2010. She has a B.A. from St. Lawrence University in English Writing and a M.S.T. from SUNY Plattsburgh in Curriculum and Instruction. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Study in Educational Leadership also from Plattsburgh State University. She is a Teacher Consultant of the Capital District Writing project’s 2020 cohort. She enjoys spoken word poetry and personal narratives which she enjoys teaching to her freshmen in English 9 and her seniors in Creative Writing. Her essays on teaching have been published in the Educator’s Room. Bridgette currently serves as the Vice President of Secondary for NYSEC.

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