What We Want

What We Want

What we want
is never simple.
We move among the things
we thought we wanted:
a face, a room, an open book
and these things bear our names–
now they want us.
But what we want appears
in dreams, wearing disguises.
We fall past,
holding out our arms
and in the morning
our arms ache.
We don’t remember the dream,
but the dream remembers us.
It is there all day
as an animal is there
under the table,
as the stars are there
even in full sun.


  • Solicit Prior Knowledge: Ask students to write or talk in pairs (or both) about some of the things they want. Can they put them in a continuum- things they want the most to least?
  • Review metaphor and imagery as theme and ideas.
  • Have students read the poem aloud as a group, then silently to themselves.
  • What line (or lines ) in the poem seem most important to you.  Write it down in your journal, and explain why in a free write.
  • Divide advisory into three small groups and give them each a definition of a literary technique (tone, figurative language, and theme).  With the definition, have the group identify
    • Figurative language: give at least two examples of figurative language in the poem. Explain what they mean. Why would the speaker use these?
    • Tone: How would you describe the tone of the poem (the author’s attitude toward the subject).  If you were acting it out, how would you change your voice to make it sound this way?  What clues are you reading that help you understand the tone?
    • Theme: What are some of the themes explored in this poem  (list at least 2).  For each
  • Then, after working in small groups, have each group report out to the whole advisory – they should prevent the definition of the term and provide an example.
  • Write a journal entry that is like a conversation with a 4th grader explaining what is the speaker of this poem trying to say.



  • Ask the students to show this poem to a parent or friend who has not read it.  What is their interpretation of it?  Did they read it the same way you did? Explain the similarities and differences?
  • Draw a picture inspired by the poem – a scene of an important line, a symbol of the theme, a connection to the mood or tone.
  • Write about times that the things you have wanted took control over you – when was that? Why do you think that happened?  Do you think this is a human experience (across all cultures)?



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