Chicken Curry for the Soul: Food & Memory

Free Verse and Narrative Style poetry were explored through Latino-American, Gary Soto’s, poem Oranges. 8th Grade students explored the idea of food, memory and nostalgia, then were asked to create small group  improvisational performance pieces out of Soto’s text.

Lesson Note: To have students physicalize the poem, is to place it in muscle memory. Often at the end of a residency, ‘Oranges’ is the poem remembered most. Writer Maya Lang has it right when she says:” [Writers] are in an improve skit that never ends.”

Ms. Taylor, 8th Grade
First Period

Griffin B.

The clock had only recently struck three,
And I felt as though I, too, had been struck
My head felt like it was spinning into two directions,
Twisting itself up into a knot
Now my innards felt the need to speak their piece
their contents pressing a buzzer to signify their ascension
I sped to the bathroom of my house,
Genuflecting before the porcelain throne.
A bit of battering from within and then eruption,
An explosive exhale of food and gastric juices,
Lighting a street long dumpster in my nose, mouth and throat
I coughed up more and cried for help,
In horrified confusion.
I was aghast at this violent, drenched conclusion,
But the food had other plans
For though the battle had been fought,
The war had just begun.

Xuanan N.

The long, flimsy
strings swirl in a pool of
red tainted with brown.
As the shoves it in her mouth,
I knew right there and then
that there’s no turning back.
The once clean white
is now splattered with bits of
meat balls and mushrooms.
One may look at her
with adoring eyes
but all I see is another
chore stacked onto a pile
of a dozen other chores.

Claudia G.

I hated applesauce
Tears welled up in my eyes
When my mother said
We were having applesauce
I raced up the stairs, tears
Streaming out my eyes.
The bathroom was the only
place the locked so
I threw open the door
and ran in
It must have been a half hour
before my mother found me
Sitting in the bath tub
She picked up my little seven year old body
Carrying me down the stairs
like a sack of potatoes.
And gave me applesauce.
I almost cried before I tasted
the sweet, rich flavor
Cinnamony, appley, sweet
Chunks of apple, jucy and delicious.

My grandmother’s applesauce.

Ms. Taylor, 8th Grade
2nd Period

Eliot R.

As I walk through the busy street,
I smell freshly made tortillas,
A taco truck with a Mexican flag.
The meat is juicy, the lime is acidic
the habanero salsa burns my eyes
All these flavors combined, A tear
of joy streaks down my face.

Joseph G.

I find a certain pleasure in walking on snow
Each step of snow reminds you
of the frosted crunch you love
And the snow glistens like diamonds
with light projected on to it.
But then it melts and gets your shoes wet
wet and cold

Jamiah D.

The first time I didn’t follow my guy
My grandpa had been boiling pig feet for hours
All my family was anxious to eat
The stomachs were growling and the mouths were

Then, there was me
Terrified to look in the pot
As soon as they were done, by heart began to drop
I was thinking “this is horrible. I’ll never eat
But everybody told me “try new things, you will
love it”
I took a little piece expecting satisfaction
Instead, it felt like I was chewing juicy rubber
Since then, I’ve always followed my gut.
Never will I eat pig feet again, or any
other strange animal limbs

Ms. Taylor, 8th Grade
Third Period

Matthew K.

I remember the dry desert days.
In a canyon,
stained with eternal time.
And a bench on the edge,
like story’s cliff hanger.
I was there, young & naïve,
sitting on the edge with my family.
The canyon, orange like my crayons,
yet a color so deep,
it can’t be described.

The Blender
Sean O.

Mountain dew,
A cookie
A bag of goldfish,
And a slice of pizza,
All put in a blender
their nastiness morphing
together into a drink
of pure disgust.
My friends and I seeing
who could drink the
most. Excited, yet
scared. And at
the end, regret.

Emily R.

It was my turn to make tamales.
I boiled the water, got the flower and made the dough
It was my first time making them.
I looked at so many recipes and made so many tamales.
None of them were good enough.
I finally gave up at the last batch. I didn’t even taste
At the table, parents and sister waiting for them.
I closed my eyes. There about to try them.
My dad shouted out and said “These are goo! Better than your
mom’s” My mom punched him lightly on the shoulder and said

“They are pretty good”

My sister stayed quiet and ate.

I learned something that day, never give up.

Katia J.

Two parallel lines snapped
onto my heavy, metal laden feet.
Stepping onto a fresh powder
of sugar, sinking down
being enveloped by soft, icy rainbow white feathers,
each one individual, millions of individuals.

Pushing forward, gliding along a trodden down path,
effortlessly floating down, to look forward
and see an open sky, dotted with patterns of shades of
white. Underneath, a slope so translucent and clear
it might be an endless hole of light, except for the
adorations of tiny dots traveling across, and evergreen
trees protruding out of nowhere.
I take a deep breath of frigid air, stapling
the inside of my mouth with pelts
of frozen rain,
and drop down.
Faster and faster I rose against the wind
scratching at my face, screaming on my ears,
hollering to the gods above to my open mouth.
I race back and forth, an infinity of quick dashes
to the rhythm of my thumping heart, so fast it
might break out my chest.
And just when I reach the
point where I feel like I will
never die, I will fly in the
crisp air forever…
it stops.
I miss it immediately
I will return to this overflowing peace.

Ms. Taylor, 8th Grade
Sixth Period

James W.

My favorite food is pizza.
With its soft and silky cheese.
To its sweet and tangy tomato sauce.
Pizza has followed me around my whole life.
With so many different combinations to choose from
with its famous pizzas from Detroit, Chicago, and New York.
The pizza from Chicago pleases me all the time.
This pizza is called Deep dish pizza.
The huge pizza always makes me full after one slice.

Hot Chocolate
Maggie P.

The outside is barren
Frozen and cold.
But inside the thick,
brick walls of my house.
My mother bends over
the kitchen.
Pouring delicious packets
of chocolate powder into
warm mugs.
She gives me one.
It burns like a
hot fire in my
mouth, spreading
throughout my body
like tributaries
branching out from a river.

Vedika V.

I pull the plastic off the brown bag
I open the microwave door
and stick the bag in
I push the popcorn button and wait
I see the bag getting bigger
There it is.
Pop, pop, pop.
The air suddenly smells like buttery goodness.
I open the microwave door once again
This time hair air blows in my face
I pick up the bag and throw it on the counter
I spread out my fingers
My skin turns black and blue
I open the bag and stick one adult kernel in my mouth
worth it

Ms. Taylor, 8th Grade
Seventh Period

Faith G.

I will never stop loving chicken curry
It is the sort of thing that I got raised up with
There is one person that can make it perfect
Every time
The creamy, spicy, and hot curry that I can
eat everyday
She has given me the recipe, but when I make it
the curry just isn’t correct
She throws in spices left and right without
taking measurements and she still manages to
make it the same and perfect every time
I love her check curry so much to the
point where you can not live without

Stella B.

Sticky buns are like
icing on the cupcake.
The suspense kills
you, until you can smell
that fresh dough and sugar
from the oven.
When you take your first
bite, your teeth shiver
and clench tight, while
you feel your teeth crackling.
They fill the air
with memories, of cooking
with Nanny.

Alex L.

When I smell the soup
I feel warmth in my heart
I love my mother because
She like some dice
You never know what you’ll



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.