She Breathes Gentle

Margarethe Meyer Schurz (1833-1876)
established the first U.S kindergarten

Kinder: in German, children,
in English, gentle.
Be kinder. Kinder to the kinder,
the little ones. For my child,
for your child, for our children,
open the door, open the garden,
open our hearts and our arms. Show the way.

Here’s a garden. At my new home.
Four times transplanted, I see a need
for gentle, a need for kind. For the children
a kindergarten, a place they can play. Let them play.
No more rulers hitting knuckles. No more
corners. No more dunces. No more beatings.

See the way flowers grow.
See that for our children.
For ourselves.

Our hope, our children flowering.
A garden for children. Kindergarten.
A place where children blossom, learn, and grow.
See seed become leaf. See it rise on stem,
See it flower, see the fruit.

See baby outgrow cradle,
roll over, pull up, and stand. She totters,
she stumbles, she reaches for your hand.

You can help her. She will not spoil. She
learns kindness, learns gently through play,
learns to know the way. In the garden
my child, your child, our children,
gentle the way.

As 2019-2020 Wisconsin Poet Laureate, Margaret Rozga co-edited the anthology, Through This Door: Wisconsin in Poems (Art Night Books, 2020). Her fifth book of poems, Holding My Selves Together: New and Selected Poems, is forthcoming from Cornerstone Press in May 2021. She lives in Milwaukee.

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