March 2006

Haley Greenwald-Gonella: visionary, dancer, student activist


Haley Greenwald-Gonella, graduate of Johansen High School and 4th year dance and English major at the University of California, Irvine, has a strong activist and creative history for her 21 years.

“Dancing and writing”, she feels, “are actually very they are both ‘forms’ of communication.”  This focus in mind, she plans to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in choreography or performance studies at New York University and is considering a Ph.D. in performance studies from UC Riverside. “Ultimately,” she says she “would like to be a choreographer or have her own dance company or be a dance critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and/or Dance Magazine.”

Using dance as communication, Haley choreographed a moving student production at Johansen entitled “Unless”, based upon Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax. The performance stressed the importance of remembering the Holocaust with the underlying message of never letting it happen again.

While still in high school, she and fellow student, Gavin Skram, were instrumental in bringing the Day of Respect program to Johansen, which earned her scholarships from PFLAG and GLSEN. She has been a finalist in the Modesto Peace/Life Center Peace Essay Contest, and was awarded a Viking Character Award in her junior year by then English teacher, now vice principal, Ronna Rutishauser, who said when Haley was around the circle always included everyone. Rutishauser nominated Haley after hearing her do a speech on the importance of being involved.

Haley is proud to have acted in and been a director for V-Day at UCI, “the Eve Ensler ‘Vagina Monologues’ project.” which she points out, “helps to get the word out about loving yourself and your body, looks at the abuses of power, explores the differences between men and women, and starts the conversation about topics that are typically considered taboo, like female sexuality.”

At UCI she has been active with Hillel, the Jewish Student Union, and was one of seven founders of a Jewish sorority, “because,” she says, “it just made no have a Jewish fraternity and not a Jewish sorority.” She also is employed as a note taker for the UCI Disability Services Center.

She says her parents, Andra Greenwald and Loren Gonella, have instilled in her and her twin sisters a lifetime commitment to community service, teaching her “that helping others is something that undoubtedly gives as much to the person who is giving as it does to the person or organization who is receiving the help.” Over the years she and her family have volunteered with Interfaith Ministries Redwood Family Center, Salvation Army, American Cancer Society Daffodil Days, donated cookies at a community Thanksgiving dinner. She also has led services, taught religious school and was active with the youth group at Congregation Beth Shalom.

She has been writing poetry since age ten, and says, “she writes poetry when she has time, in the company of other poets, and composes poems on the way to class and during the six hour car ride home to Modesto. Her latest poetry goal “is to fill the remaining blank pages of her almost finished poetry journal, because...she feels a sense of accomplishment like no other when she is seated behind a newly finished journal.”

Connections takes great pleasure in offering some of Haley’s poetry and sharing information about someone who has a very promising activist and creative future.

Intercourses with John Donne

Smokily studying verses of Cicero
while contemplating contemplations from the past—
complexities that only make the present context more complacent
because of the choked on candy, breast-milk fed society
that our wingèd feet got stuck in—pink cotton saccharine—

discussing disgusting words of wisdom and faith
and fating our fading into midnight lulls in lullabies
and wondering about the wanderer who strides by and by and says goodbye
and there is no more

More than wanting waiting
more than seeking hope and peace and inner-peace
our innards desire desire and lust lust
our lackluster hearts seeking the seeker who’s eyes can sear the sun

But more

But later

bit by bit by bit
in the back brained
the bite stings its way through to reality
and I wonder about those who can walk by lovers of past days
and how you can gaze into her daze
and in that time
see nothing

See the sea slipping out to shore, but not sure of where the shore ends
and the sea begins and wondering
while pondering the musings of the muse—merely waiting—for wanting— for
another useful muse to abuse.

Held in the golden locks of her locks,
of the blustered blisters of the motions of emotion gone wrong,
shedding tears like a serpent sheds its skin
tearing tearing eyes away from yellowed photographs
of pictures long gone black and white

still the orbs of the watery worlds fall floored
like fall leaves fallen from grace so gracefully
to graze the forest floor
finally finding rest
while the rest of the world double talks about the duality
of his dueling selves.

Letter to a Child

I will write you lullabies
and wrap you in taffeta to keep you warm.

I will adorn your precious forehead with daisy chains for protection and
feed you sweet milk and sugared cookies
so that your dreams will always be peaceful and you forever fall asleep
with a smile upon your ruby lips.

I will garden in December so there will always be ice-flowers for the taking
and creamy clouds for pillows during noontime naps.

I will read your French rhymes before you can say “I love you” in English;
I will knit you scarves so that the nights will always find you gazing at
I will hold hands and bite my tongue.

I will look for larks and name you Skylar.
I will build a cabin amidst the owls so that you will always be surrounded
by wisdom.
I will never fence you in and the world out.
I will cut costume patterns from the rainbow
and wash your blankets in honey and lilac water.

September will be as June once was
and tomorrow will not end as it began.

The years will skyrocket,
new trees bloom,
and last year becomes newspaper clippings
and the sun burns out,


they burned all the books today.

no more learning about the histories of Ithaca—
now no one will understand why the Hermes sandal logo is so funny…

no more learning about the queerness of being a clockwork orange or why
the color purple should be banned from your child’s box of crayons…

the summer days of lazily dazing under orgasmically peachy trees that
Zora Neale Hurston would have found poetic
mean less because
no more learning about how going before the law is your destiny to be had…

we simply take what they have to sell—
paying with our intelligence and sitting in the core of the earth we begin
to wonder…

did we do the right thing taking off that butterfly’s wings?
only to go slipping out to sea like the awakened heroine

Invisible Dances

the gods and goddesses assembled tonight
in the evening-red-candle-flame
to capture the motions of the
guides, scribes, and those who traverse the plains of the earth

they spoke the text of longing of the Ancients
and stepped into the negative-energies of the street-lined city paths to
speak of Grahamentine war strategies
and marvel at the flocking of birds

they danced the circular tales of old stories—
strung together with time
and retold the histories of their tragic past,
while rewriting the architecture of the fair cities from which they hailed—

only to discover
that they were merely rewriting
the first drafts
of the Ancients


tragically beautiful
this wind
time is changed
chances passed
today is yesterday,
but feels like a Monday Tuesday

shallow shoulders
of water-waisted beings
in the drowning tides
of lyrics and guitar strings
humming lethally low

tomorrow is one lie in someone else’s head
feverish in September’s calm

clam-colored painted walls
baked sand
chowders and sauces that induce your kisses
—who was she?
I know—
strange and soft, twisted

young girls searching for men
in their schoolyards
at play on corners,
in lamp-lit study rooms with no chairs

there’s only heat and lukewarm ice for the injured
tomorrow’s just another night
I sit and stare and reveal