He came into the cafè wearing a black shirt with an orange flaming design he called "the flaming head skull." The shirt was unbuttoned, revealing a wrinkled, white T-shirt. The outfit screamed "attitude." The poem he recited, titled "Hard To Please," revolved around themes of disappointment, resentment and betrayal, wrapped in an enigma of humor. All he was missing was a staged sneer.
"Tiny is whiney," was one of the lines.
His name was Nathan Kozlowski, 8, and part of the Poetry Cafè at Lynbrook Elementary School. Nathan described his motivations behind the poem.
"When my brother borrows my school supplies and doesn't return them," he said. "It took me about 30 minutes."
Juan Francisco, 11, also did a poem inspired by events at home. "Trade Me," was about the constant swap meet he has with brothers and sisters.
"My brother traded a cat for a dog. Sometimes it's hard, and sometimes it's sad," he said of the trading circuit.
Carmen Chavez' poem also dealt with the dark side, and death.
"Things that are scary," he said.
Other poems revolved around Earth Day, like Wesley Stephen's "The Ozone."
"It's one of the layers of the atmosphere," the fourth-grader said.
THE CAFè is the creation of Lynbrook reading teacher Patty Pecoraro. She was the only one decked out in a black beret and vest, reminiscent of the Beat Generation. Each reader got on a single stool under a spotlight in the library and went at it, as others ate lunch at the tables. Clicking of the fingers was encouraged between the poems.
"It's a variety of poetry. They've been learning you can express poetry in all ways. We encourage expression," Pecoraro said.
The variety of subjects included speaking, whales, a cat, the color red, and a tree. Victoria Campbell, 10, did a poem called "The Tree" and did it in a "conquering" format, which is when the words are in the shape of the subject. In this case, a tree. It took her two days.
"For Earth Day, it's a conquering poem," she said.
SCHOOL BOARD member Chris Braunlich was clicking his fingers in between poems. He sat at a table with cluster director Betsy Fenske.
"I think there is an increasing use of getting the curriculum across in an imaginative way," he said.
Third-grade teacher Pat Mullaney watched her class. They've been involved with poetry all year. It's one of her passions, along with theater.
"It gives them a time to get up and share. They can all be successful with poetry. I find it helps with the ESL (English as a Second Language) kids, too. They love it," she said.
The Poetry Cafè is part of the language-arts program, and it is the second annual cafè at Lynbrook. Pecoraro looked at it as a confidence-builder as well.
"Some of them are quiet children, and they really come out in this. We're going to collect all their poetry and put it in a big book," she said.
Principal Mahri Aste said some of the students with autism got up and read also.
"A couple of the kids that have been reading have autism. She came to us speaking no English in September," Aste said, pointing to Alma Vitela, who does not have autism but is conquering the English language.