A Farewell from Zine Instructor Shaun

Zine Instructor Shaun says 'goodbye' for now.

Zine Instructor Shaun says ‘goodbye’ for now.

After three and a half years, and 19 groups of amazing young people, Zine Instructor Shaun is moving on.

Pursuing a long-time-goal of being a high school English teacher, Shaun is off to work in Seattle Public Schools as a teacher’s assistant. Another Zine Instructor will be hired soon and many more blogs and zines will follow.

But before signing off, Shaun wanted to share some words in a poem, dedicated to homeless youth and his time at the Zine Project and at University District Youth Center (UDYC). Enjoy! And thank you for always reading:

Flip it over

Hey you,

you with the face.

When’s the last time you took space

to look and see the grace electric on your cheeks?

Or have your eyes come to peek

timidly out

from behind skin tasked to be a mask

through the blocks, so wide

walking them eats up weeks

of your soles and talking in them

seems to dig you one more hole. They seem to stretch

from pole to pole. Those streets

            can make you forget

the feat of artistry,

the woven cell-supple tapestry

the blood-warmed and muscled basketry

of your face. You.

Hey you

behind the door,

noticing now your breathing pores,

maybe at your core, resenting the get-out

you fear my voice might roar.

Today, I’ve got something else for you to absorb.

It’s a simple phrase. Common as a three-leafed clover,

stark as the reflection in the mirror:

if you can, when you can

flip it over.

When you miss your bus, when there’s rust in your trucks,

when one more ‘no’ seems like a beam that will crush

when the curse gets fussed out of your best and briniest cuss,

when your closest ride-or-die goes and betrays your trust,

flip it over.

When your transfer runs out, when you get missed by the count

when you walk your feet into gnarled root-bulbs of gout,

when you feel kicked to the curb and you’re all out of shout

when, in place of the courage in your bag, you find a dark wad of doubt

flip it over.

When the porch leaks, when the church doorway reeks

when you raise your hand to ask and the bus driver zooms right passed,

when the legal phrase, the bureaucratic maze, or the cop’s curt gaze

summon up a board room table to flatten you stable—

use all your strength to heave off that slab.

Pick it up, lift it up

and flip it over.

Flip it over cuz the night won’t win.

Flip it over cuz the moon has a bigger, prettier twin

Flip it over

and the sand at the bottom is on top again

and as long as its flipped, the hour glass can continue to spin.

And yes, the dog still cries

            and the sun can be a squat-key that pries

open the darkness in which we sometimes can hide

from the truth of life’s limitedness,

the law that wants to find us and bury us

using for a spade,

our pride.

But the spirit cannot be broken by any law

all laws were made to be broken by the Spirit

That left its lineaments in your face and in your ligaments,

the Spirit that sounds its voice when you speak soft or in vehemence

about the things in this world that scare you sober

like another listless summer or a soaked October,

the Spirit with which you take this rain-sodden bench

gumming your bum glum and

flip it over

to find that beneath

is a note with your name on it.

Inside is a message of hope that’s kinda haunted

with risk—pregnant with a promise

a truth too bent to be doctrine

too hard-won to be forgotten:




Pick up the phone when you need to, listen

to the voices that plead with you

and impart the truth

that like this poem

you were poured from a life-shaped crucible.

You’re resilient and beautiful

and deserve every last chance for a reversal.

I mean just look at you,


with the face.

The face, shy at first

but getting bolder,

saying back to me, like a mirror,

If you can, when you can,

flip it over.


2 thoughts on “A Farewell from Zine Instructor Shaun

  1. Shaun, I enjoyed your poem. Sorry to hear you will be leaving the Zine but know you will be a great English teacher. Seattle schools will be lucky to have you. News re Juan: he signed up for computer class but now looks like he has a job in Missouri, where he’s visiting. So I’m going to un-enroll him from the class and recover the money we paid for it. Should I repay the Zine people the $250, or wait to see if he comes back to take the class winter quarter? If you are interested in reading/writing, you might like to check out my ebook, Get on Board Little Children, by Victoria Randall, on Amazon/B&N etc. I have enjoyed all the work sent by your students and inspired by you. Wish you good fortune. Vicki Barbosa

    • Hi Vicky:

      Thanks for your email.

      I would just hold on to it and see if he wants to go Winter Quarter. If not, if they’ll give you a refund, make the check out to Catholic Community Services of Western Washington (CCSWW).

      Good luck to him.


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