Poetry in Song Form

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By Shannon Larsen
June 2013

As a yoga instructor for AYP, I am grateful to be able to visit both James Ranch and the girls unit in Juvenile Hall.  It gives me the opportunity to work with girls that rotate in and out of the hall quite frequently as well as spend time in curriculum and creative expression with those at the Ranch, who tend to be there much longer.

I recall beginning class at the Ranch one winter day speaking about our form of creative expression and outlet for release. Anne, our writing teacher, had been visiting the girls and I was able to be there for a few of her Thursday writing days.  It was amazing witnessing the girls find their words and become more and more comfortable sharing their stories, their truths.  I shared with the girls that one of my ways to express myself and find release was through songwriting and that maybe one day I could share a song with them.  After making sure I could bring my guitar in, the next time I was scheduled to visit James Ranch, I brought my guitar.

I let the girls know that before we practiced, I wanted to share a piece of my life with them since they share pieces of theirs with me.  We re-visited the idea of our stories being our gifts.  How Anne says that it’s important to share our life stories with others.  I told them that as a teenager I didn’t know how to express myself but when my brother showed me how to play the guitar, I started writing songs about all the things happening in my life, including the hard stuff.  However, I ONLY sang in secret in the bathroom with no one listening.  Not until an important woman  encouraged me to share my “gift” with others did I start playing songs publicly.  I told them that just like poems and life stories, songs are my way to share life as I see it and as I learn. And it is also a way that I practice purity of mind as I work through my own feelings and thoughts. The song I shared is called Change the World, one that I wrote.  One girl stared intently at me the whole time as another doodled in her journal.  Afterwards the ladies were ready to have a physical practice which we kept very watery and a bit more mellow, focusing on breath and what our bodies needed.  I noticed that the girls seemed more uninhibited that day after having listened intently to the song I shared, and perhaps recognizing that we all have stories and gifts to express. I’ve brought my guitar in several times now and no matter how distracted the girls appear at first, they always quiet to listen as I share songs with them.

Change the World (Lyrics)

Poppa why are you working so hard
Momma why are you crying in that car
Young loves why are you running away
What do we have to say, do we have to say?

Brother why are you acting so hard
Sister why don’t you love yourself as you are
Old fools why are you disappointed in youth
What do we have to say, do we have to say?

Some things seem like they’re never gonna change
But I can tell you darlings they don’t have to stay the same
If we believe in love and understanding
And you and me…
We can change the world

Why do we live in boxes black and white
Is that so much scarier than risking flight
Why do we run in circles like we do
There’s somethin different now somethin different now, for me and you

Spread arms the wingspan of a storm
Find your truth and escape all the nor
And flyyy-yyy-yy my bird
There’s somethin different now somethin different now, haven’t ya heard

Who knows how much time we got
Take time to free your mind we got
Who knows how much time we got
Take time to free your mind, free your mind

Some things seem like they’re never gonna change
But I can tell you darlings they don’t have to stay the same
If we believe in love and understanding
And you and me…
We can change the world
Change the world
We will change the world.