Listening Back To Imagine Who We Could Become

Listening Back To Imagine Who We Could Become

 a collaborative communal poem  to honor The Paramount Theatre’s 100th Anniversary (1921-2021)

Commissioned by the Paramount Center for the Arts. Created by Lyricality. Sponsored in part by Bill and Linda Henrichs and Gate City Bank.

This poem is an invitation to be moved by awe 

to look back to then step forward, to learn from our past

to not make the same mistakes, to transform.

Poems are always just outside the door.

Like a car we didn’t know we owned,

they’ll take us to a destination

that can’t be found on a map.

We’ll drive forward, or backward, to

a landscape of dreams we never dreamed:

a meadow dotted with the yellow flowers of stars,

wings of a thousand birds swimming across

the blue pool of the sky,

while, on the horizon, the eye of the

sun opens steadily. This poem hopes

everyone here will be seen. Recognized. 

Valued. Appreciated, all of us becoming 

tender and tender-hearted together, caring

and breaking standards, making each of us one 

of many. This poem is a museum of questions:

Why should we imagine who we want to become?

Is what we were not working?

Are we looking at transformation?

How do we transform from nice to authentic?

How do we connect, to understand who we think we are?

…we continue / adding to the museum’s border.

Who are we truly? How do you know who you are? 

How can we know who we want to become 

if we don’t remember who we were? 

How did we become who we are? …we continue 

creating a loose yet evident boundary

inviting future visitors to come closer.

Who do you think we were?

Who do you think we are?

Who do you think you are?

This poem is composed of our mitochondrial DNA 

where our fragmented rich history survives in our bones 

and blood and tears, where our mother’s mother’s

stories survive in their grandmother’s mother-tongues. 

Imagine the life you might have lived if your ancestors had

never left home. Look back to your deep roots to look 

forward. Know your history to know who you are.

Know their histories to know who they are.

Know our histories to know who we are. 

The field is freshly plowed and seeded.

The trees and grass are greening.

It is a gentle sunny morning.

If you hear my voice / you’ve found your way in.

Have a seat near me / dear friend, and let this poem become

the place where we unmask. A mask is a front. 

A shield, a change-preventing performance. This poem

asks you to be aware of who you think you are 

without your mask. Maybe you followed those rules 

that told you not to express yourself: don’t tell 

your truth; wear this mask; fit in this box on this form. 

This poem, then, is a summons to break out. 

Some voice tells you / to chip at this shell in which you’re cradled

until you crack it open, / stick your head out

before wiggling the rest of yourself / into a new life. 

Rise up from stilled darkness and re-enter

the light, breathing, observing—the sun also sets. 

Step bravely into the night / the vast abyss of unknown. 

Listen, today is a result of what happened centuries ago

to your mother’s mother’s grandmother’s great-grandmother’s 

body. And now this poem is whispering

tenderly in your mother-tongue: 

Listen, it’s okay if you’re afraid to change.

But even the caterpillar knows to / shed its too-tight skin 

and so it grows and sheds again. So let us enter this poem 

to discover nuggets of grace / delivered with audacity

from a place aflame / with hope, not toxicity—

And let this poem dare you to tell us who you are. 

Do it. Love has brought you to it. / Travel where it’s hard to go.

Even when your fears say, No!

And if your fears refuse to tell us who you think you are,

Do something small. / And then something smaller and then

the smallest thing, a gesture, very slight.

Consider whether it’s brave. And if these three 

Movements make an action, and if it helps

You feel alive, or names you love, or opens

Your heart, your ears, any window, any door—

Go to the beginning and listen again. Listen hard.

Collaborators—Sylvia Calderon was raised in a traditional Puerto Rican family. After becoming disabled by Fibromyalgia, she started hearing poetry in her mind, as if from nowhere. She began writing those words down as a way to release bitterness, grow closer to the truth of her inner being, and to honor her writing vibe. These days she regularly shares her whimsical, philosophical poems and inspirations on her blog, EmotionalNotions.wordpress.com. Anisa Hagi-Mohamed is a dedicated mother, wife, teacher, artist and writer. She is the author of My Diasporic Diary, a reflective journal for diaspora people. Currently Anisa is in the process of designing products and publishing books that feature and capture diaspora elements of identity, home, language and culture. Hedy Tripp is a St. Cloud elder with the Minnesota Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL) and a recent recipient of Central Minnesota Arts Board (CMAB) Artist Career Development grant for her poetry. Janette Yiran is the Dean of Students and an EL teacher at St. Cloud Math & Science Academy. She is a Curator of African Arts and leads the Fred Yiran African Arts Day annual celebration and related programming in St. Cloud with a mission to offer their patrons a way of expanding their knowledge and understanding of African arts and cultures. 

Contributors—Bill Meissner (always just outside . . . sun opens steadily, from “Where The Poems Find You” previously unpublished), author and teacher, has published four previous collections of poetry: American Compass, Learning to Breathe Underwater, The Sleepwalker’s Son, and Twin Sons of Different Mirrors. Mary Willette Hughes (rise up . . . breathing, from The Shadow Loom Poems, p 73) facilitated Poetry As Therapy for 19 years and published 3 collections: Quilt Pieces, Flight on New Wings, and The Shadow Loom Poems. Micki Blenkush (we continue / adding to the museum’s border & creating a loose . . . come closer from Now We Will Speak in Flowers, p 62), 2017-2018 fellow in poetry for the Loft Literary Center’s Mentor Series program, has published 1 collection, Now We Will Speak in Flowers. Charles Wm. Preble, 1936-2021 (The field . . . dear friend from Simple Attendance, p 1) lived in St. Joseph on a nineteenth-century farmstead with his wife, Jana Preble. An artisan, priest, and poet, he published 3 books of poetry with a 4th in process. Larry Schug (Some voice . . . a new life from “Hatchling” previously unpublished) lives near a large tamarack bog in St. Wendel Township. He published 8 collections, most recently A Blanket of Raven Feathers, and is working on a 9th. Mardi Knudson (Step bravely. . . unknown from “New Beginnings” previously unpublished) is a member of the Grand View Poets St. Cloud area chapter of the League of Minnesota Poets, and has been writing poems for more than 30 years. Sandy Bot-Miller (nuggets of grace . . .toxicity from “Inauguration Day 2021” previously unpublished) a St. Cloud artist and poet, creates imagery from her own inner world, life experiences, and what she observes in the natural world around her. Delores Dufner, OSB (the caterpillar. . . sheds again from “Metamorphosis” previously unpublished) is a member of St. Benedict’s Monastery in St. Joseph. She has written 266 scripture-based hymn texts published in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and China. Juliana Howard (Do it. . .say no from “You Can Be a Prophet Too,” Take Out Your Crayons) directed and wrote songs for the St. Cloud area children’s choir The Crayons. She now lives in St. Joseph, MN with her husband of 62 years. Susan Sink (Do something . . . Listen hard from H is for Harry, 7) is the author of 3 books of poems: The Way of All the Earth; Habits; and H is for Harry. She lives in St. Joseph on 80 acres.

Facilitator/Arranger—Tracy Rittmueller, Lyricality’s Founder and Director, is a poet/writer who, in 2015 with residents and staff at West Bay Residential Services in Warwick, Rhode Island, pioneered a process for creating collaborative communal poetry as a way to promote community inclusion, personal power, self-expression and life fulfillment.