Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mild Impairment


The bread crumbs mark the trail, but where that trail leads leads is still an unsolved case for which the jury is out, or not yet convened. A symptom here, a genetic result there, a forgotten movie, book title, name of colleague. The missed appointments pile up like leaves blown against a fence. The MRI says you have mild atrophy up there in the bell tower, the cerebellum, the cerebrum, the gray place of not much celebration. Things are less bright. No need to panic. Wouldn't do any good anyway. But don't make promises you might not be able to keep, or sign contracts you might not be able to fulfill. Cognition or incognition: that is the question. Keep your eyes open for the next clue on this little scavenger hunt. The next bread crumb might be the one that lights the way, might be the one that tips the scales toward a future as foggy as your frost-covered windshield.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Privilege to Forget


With the sanitized curriculum, students can pass through the system without once encountering how writing relates to social critique. The "normalness" of white privilege has been woven into a message that writing is just about techniques for looking at situations and deciding how best to sell your audience on your message. No need to think about who benefits, who loses, how some get left out, or how writing greases the wheels of the big corporate, bottom line machine. Tidy, yes, but also devoid of ethics, or nearly so. It's a kind of "drive by" ethics, like a bus tour through Hollywood.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Wish I Could Think


The administrators want standardized curricula and accountability (read lots of paper-work full of check lists that really adds up to busy work). The time and energy used up in filling all these boxes and bending to meet the standards deprives both teachers and students of a meaningful experience with writing. There is little room for creative problem solving or writing to explore and discover, to pursue writing as a way of knowing, of making knowledge. There is little surprise because the time is all mapped out, and based on content that is easy to test, to fill in the box marked "assessment." Of course, from the administrators standpoint, this is all for the good: they get their "data." From the other side, teachers and students will fail to see writing as an opportunity to develop in ways that only a more flexible, creative, and less standardized curriculum might offer. They will find the course infinitely forgettable, which is what happens with most content-driven courses. I don't know why grad students would want to teach in a program that fails to develop them in their chosen fields of study. Just sayin.'

Friday, February 24, 2017

For All the Wrong Reasons


You did it for recognition, money, and the hope that, somehow, you might feel better. As the days passed, you began to see something else, began to want something else. What first seemed a mistaken generosity turned a key that opened to another reason for your work. No money there. No fame either. The riches there weren't the ones you thought you were looking for. The scale measuring worth tipped in your favor even though you would be the only one to know.

Good Mourning


It's another one of those days. You know, the beautiful ones, the ones that begin way before the sun comes up because something is burning inside you. It's so dark you can't see as you stumble into the living room to sit with the cat. No moon. You feel like the only person on earth who is awake. The quiet is deafening, but you settle in and let the heart pound away. The ache is scary, but has become familiar.You might think that something is wrong, and maybe you are right, but it's best not to react. You are learning to be with it until it passes. You might feel lonely. The tears are jewels, like lyrics to a poem.

Those Who Have


The walls are high and the gates well guarded. If you are born inside you are lucky. Outside and you are fated to scramble if you want what those inside have. They have made the rules and those rules don't care what you think or feel or whether or not you are hungry. They are quick and will steal your last nickel if you let them, even if you don't let them. With high balls and patent leather shoes they are clinking glasses around the barbeque as they discuss the finer points of golf on artificial turf. You just want a chance. They will laugh in your face if you ask, but will let you watch all the TV you want. And TV shows them at their best, making you believe that, yes, they are deserving and blessed. You can turn away and begin to think your own thoughts, but that is lonely and hard and they will find you out, will see the fire in your eyes, and come searching for you because, yes, now you have become dangerous and a little free. You will have to learn to be hungry, to trust yourself, and to keep moving. The leanness of you is terrifying to them because they have grown fat on fear, lies, and greed. You may be the one in a million who can stay the course but the way will ask much. You have to find the others in order to be seen for who you might become. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Truth of It


It was the enormity of the desires that brought them together and tore them apart. The desire for companionship, comfort, sex, help -- help in this grinding chaos of a life, help to just get through it, drew them to try, to commit. But then the desires of one began to pull at, and draw from, those of the other. He wanted to be left alone, to brood, to create. She wanted to travel. He gave in, only to find himself starving for what he needed as a result of following her. They each gave more than they could afford to give and the love drew down, like a reservoir in drought. They fought for the pain of it. He began to see her as punishing an critical. She saw him as hostile, snuffing out her dreams like you would extinguish the light of a candle. She could never understand what he needed, but tried, always giving him the wrong things.  The wounds festered and they both grew cold, shackled as they were by the promise of something better than being alone.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Sent to the Office


The wardens waited in the office of the Admin Building just outside the high perimeter fence. We came out to the prison to pitch a film idea. A. wanted to interview some of the inmates in the writing workshops as part of a documentary about prison education. I was here as the connection. I did not know, nor had never met the wardens. The small, scared and lazy part of me wanted to stay home under the covers and forget all about this writing shit. What if I had to work harder as a result of this meeting? What if things went wrong? Didn't go according to plan? This is not me, not what I do. I don't put myself out there like this. I'm the one in the back row, the one who hides out. So, whoever this other me is takes a deep breath, comforts the complaining, safe little nervous Nellies of my coping narratives, and takes a step forward, into the next page of a book I always hoped to write.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Five Hundred


When I was sixteen, I started keeping a journal. The words I wrote in that spiral notebook paved a path to someone I did not previously know, but who seemed to know himself. Those words spoke with an authority that the sixteen-year-old "I," in my day-to-day life, did not possess. They rolled out onto the page and told a story about wanting to embark on an adventure of both travel and learning. Because of them I hitch-hiked to Montana, read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and joined the world of letters. I left home for the University of Wisconsin, traveled to Europe, Mexico, and South America. In spite of a lack of experience, I enrolled in writing programs. I have been a faithful, servant, more or less, to the call to write, teach, and keep learning. The days, now, are getting dimmer, and I'm not sure what I have to show for the journey, the work. As a small token, there are now five hundred posts on this blog. I don't know how many more will see the light of electronic day, but here they are for now, more than anyone could ever want to read. The words just keep pouring out. I only hope they get better with age.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Curricula


I am looking over the list of outcomes I am paid to teach so that I can write up my APR, the annual performance review. OK, fair enough. One has to have a goal when asking twenty-five freshly-scrubbed nineteen-year-olds to point their little brains toward a writing assignment. I read the SLOs, and find that students will "read in ways that contribute to their rhetorical knowledge as writers." Hmmmm. If I put my brain in the head of a first-year student who has had trouble with writing and English classes most of his-her life, I would go stone cold. What the hell does that even mean? I have a PhD in rhetoric, and don't quite see how I supposed to do that. I can only imagine what my students understand from the high order of abstraction. Yes, I see that students should learn to read as writers: look for the strategies and forms in a text, that we would have to practice that, talk through it, work in groups and produce that level of discussion, speculate about the context, but all of that is far less abstract than the stated goal. If we start with what students might already know, if we invite them to "respond" and then to look at "how?" and maybe "why?" with terms like focus, structure, development, then they would have something to hang onto; then we might make a big jump to how that speaks to "rhetorical knowledge" (though that level of abstraction still feels like an upper-division or graduate level goal). I have to say that emphasizing this level of abstraction at the cost of giving students real experience in composing and revising is a recipe for disengagement and frustration. Better would be to let them find a reason for writing and then help them puzzle out which genre works best given their purposes and audience. Once we were in the thick of it, we could look at choices they are making, and introduce the idea of rhetoric. Then some of that abstraction might make more sense. Coming at them with abstractions blazing and telling them to develop the knowledge seems bass ackwards to me. Yes, I have to live within this outcomes and data-crazy teaching world. What's a teacher to do? Write it up and get out, I guess.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Super De-Luxe Extra Special Top Drawer Platinum


The flag could have been cardboard for all its stiffness, flat-out in the wind. A sign says "State Prison" and "Federal Prison" with arrows pointing up and left. The car takes another hit from a fifty-mile-an-hour gust and requires a correction to stay straight on the slash of asphalt heading toward the snow covered Santa Rita mountains due south. Another sign announces a shooting range to the right. I see the towers of the penitentiary rise above a low ridge. A red tail hawk shoots past before swooping up to perch on a high-tension power pole. The lines and towers run away to vanishing points ahead and behind. The interstate, with its heavy, dense flow of goods and desires shrinks in the mirror. Pavement ends at the state prison and police training track. A sign directs volunteers to park in front of the main gate to the high security units. I am going to a "four yard," the highest level of security at the complex. The men in the workshop don't get much free time out of their cells. They complain about the interruptions of their cellies taking a piss when they are trying to read, write, or just enjoy a snack made on their hot plate. Ravens do tricks in the gusts, rolling, diving, stalling. A fighter jet cuts an incision across the folds of the Catalina mountains. My ID dances on its lanyard as I cross to the checkpoint. My pants press against my thighs and flap in the wind. I lean into it. Rain feels like spit in my face. No matter. I got 'em, the words that is. They are good ones, top notch. I picked them fresh this morning. Can't wait serve them up in the programs room, the one with the lights off just because it feels right, the dim light from the windows enough for the work we're up to.

The Work


What is good comes from sustained action, focused attention, and ongoing effort. All of these have been conspicuously absent from my time here in this crazy body. It must be a case of ADD that has kept me from pursuing what I know to be good. I just can't seem to keep my eyes on the prize, to sustain that gaze on where it is I want to go. I see now, too late, that my work is to tame the runaway train that is my mind in order to do what a better part of me wants it to do. It's an unruly beast, up to no good but its own impulses, and the work will be demanding. But, hey, you gotta do something with your daze, no?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Into That Loud and Narrow Place


I have been here before. The last time I almost bolted up and ran from the room, doing so in spite of being crippled. It was the narrowness of the thing, the confining tunnel that seemed to get smaller the longer I was in it. And the noise. The noise. The deafening rumble of the electromagnets doing their work. I could feel the noise deep in my broken tendon. Well, this time is different. This time it's about the brain. Yes, this is the next step toward finding out if and how much dementia has begun to take hold of that pea-sized chaos rattling around in my skull. I've done the genetic stuff, the cognitive tests, have been keeping track of how I am losing track. So now it's the imaging piece. I will descend into the portal, the tunnel, out of which I will emerge shaken but better informed of what will happen next. For now, the lights still shine as I go into the dark, narrow, god-forsaken noisy place.

So, You Want to Know


Redemption comes not from pursuing yet another insight into why you feel so empty, so disconnected, so tired of your life, but from taking a step into what it is that you fear, what you most desire, what is your power. It is the act, the motion toward a more scathing vulnerability that will free you. All this thinking and reading and talking may work to prepare you but it is the actual doing that will free you, will strip you, will carry you into the blinding light of being seen for the gift that you are, that you were born to give away. Seeing it yourself is only the beginning. Until someone else sees you for who you really are, you will likely be wanting more, waiting for someone to save you.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Another Fried Day


His brain is mush as he joins the speeding rice burners on the 101 Loop. Pubescent males, in their souped-up Subarus and Evos vie for position on the four-lane expressway, lines zipping past like white bullets. There is no way he can keep up with the furious urbanites, fueled, as they are, with too must testosterone. He, by contrast, is on the other end of the spectrum, now sixty, and wondering what the hell it is he is doing up at this hour, heading toward Tempe and then Tucson after his community organizing course in Scottsdale. It has been a full day. He woke with a headache, twenty-one hours ago, at four-thirty, went down to a cafe to write at six. Then a long day teaching, collecting papers that he will have to grade for the next several days, every spare moment taken. After that there was the program meeting. As usual, he was the one to bitch about prescriptive criteria that the bosses ram down the throats of teachers. When most of his peers were on their way home to meals and the news, he left Tucson to drive a hundred and thirty five miles to Phoenix to sit in a three hour class. Now he was driving home and his brain was slow in processing the speeding stimuli flying at him through the wind screen. You just do some things he said to himself. You just do them because it is what you do. Buck up, he thought. Buck up and take your medicine. The night is short and the traffic fast and indifferent. Somebody will love you. Someday. Maybe. To keep himself awake, he thinks of sex, of a woman's mysterious anatomy. It works. The mind is good for something he thinks. For now, just love yourself enough to believe in something big, irrational, a bit crazy. Tomorrow is the last day of the week, another week in the bag. He has work to do. Papers to grade, meetings to lead and attend. It's what he does.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

From Here


The surprises rain down: an article in the SBS newsletter about the workshops, an invitation to meet with a deputy warden about making a film at the prison, grad students stepping forward to help with typing, friends and editors responding well to my writing about the power of creative expression. It's all out of the box, exciting, and a bit overwhelming. I don't know what to make of this. So I am not making anything out it. It just is what it is. And I just will do what I am called to do, will listen to that little, joyful voice that says "have some fun, you fool." At this late stage of life, I am finally learning to lighten up, to imagine how I might dance with the days coming down the pipe. There is work to do, for sure. And there is joy to be embraced, friends to be comforted, held close, words to gather. Oh, life, such a sweet surprise, thank you for the opportunity to make it up as I stumble along.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Stretching


Life, it has seemed, asks a lot of me. I need to make a living, pay bills, fix cars, plunge toilets, rally against the steady entropy of my material world. My planner is flush with tasks and commitments, most of which I did not choose as much as agree to. But, lately, the teeter totter of being has pivoted to another view. I catch myself turning the table to ask more out of life -- more enjoyment, more satisfaction, more joy. And, slowly, I am becoming more responsible for cultivating my moments in order to fit those pieces in. I, in other words, am stretching the narrow window of my mind so that time night be filled with more of what I want out of these precious days here on planet Earth. As I walk across campus, the sun shimmers of a palm leaf that dances on the stiff breeze. If I let myself give in to all the chit chat of a mind bent on worry, I might miss that, might skip the gift of this second, might limit a full dose of free range, of listening to the silent nothing of the right note.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

When the Time Comes


At some point it just doesn't work anymore. You know, the bitching, cajoling, finger pointing, all the smarty-pants see-I-told-you-so superiority of the frustrated intellectual trying to get some attention. When it no longer works for you because it is so empty that it drains you of your drops of life-blood, you will know that you have to jump ship, bail, drop out, or just cut and run. What you run to will be the tonic of song, of sweet desert breezes, of giving up having to win or be right. You will have to dig into loamy compost of your mistakes to find the missing humanity, the humility beneath your snot-nosed, youthful arrogance. If you linger too long in the tribe of malcontent, you too will turn into a pillar of bitter, crumbling logic. So, take heart, sweep your chips from the table, and break for the open door, the streaming light of risk and slim chances. What have you got to lose?

Monday, February 13, 2017

On Being Seen


With Valentine's Day around the corner, it's time to mull over the chaos of love. For most of my long years, I have thought that love grew only out of desire for the other, out of heat, lust, craving for possession of my idea, what I wanted of the beloved. Of course, one cannot understate the chemical power of oxytocin, dopamine, and other love-based intoxicants, and the pairing of that with pursuit of "the one," but that wild flush may also come from another, less obvious source. So, I tip my hat in the direction of the chase, and point to another, heretofore little considered theory: that love may not come so much from desire as the rush of being seen by a fellow hottie. We are legion in terms of what we project out from ourselves to the world. Yet, there is often a version of ourselves trying to be expressed that, sometimes, gets stifled. Part of getting it out there is having it reflected back to us from someone we love. That crazy, multi-faceted, polka-dotted, sometimes scary-vulnerable soul of a lost marvel wakes up when someone points in your direction and says, with real certainty, real affection, not just "I want you," but also "I see you." If that doesn't bring you to your knees, knock your socks off, send you into flights of bliss, give you some of the courage to get up and embrace your most secret of dreams, then wooden nickels will buy you hot espresso.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Arc


So, there was this guy. For most of his life he bounced from thing to thing like a pinball whacked by bumpers and paddles. His journey between whacks he lived in darkness and dread. Through all that dark situational bouncing, though, he held onto something that he couldn't quite put into words, but that held power over him nonetheless. Whatever he did failed to further reveal or get him closer to that thing, that hot core of energy that wanted out. He realized it could only get out through him and his work, but a certain kind of work, work that tapped into a love for something, work that served something bigger than himself. It was a kind of paradox: he would find himself by giving himself away. And the things he most feared would be the same things that would set him free. Surprisingly, he would find what he sought in the place he most wanted to avoid. And what he would find would be peace. The locked doors of his mind became the high fences of razor wire; the gates guarding his unhappiness became the electric sally ports between the outside and in. His days in darkness prepared him for what was coming, made him immune to the snakes and poison of violence and fear, most of the time anyway. But it was the words, the words, that began to flow, that filled the dry voids left by his anger. He found solace and joy learning to listen, learning to invite. And there was something with him that had always been there, but to which he was blind. He let himself go, let himself be consumed by the flames, the ones that climbed high enough to burn through the walls he had built to keep him from his pain, his love.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Unrequited


The moon grows full on desires, eats until it is round and fat and about to pop. Then it sits back to grow lean as a scythe before growing hungry again, coming after me with its light up there in the sharp crystal of a desert sky. How did I get so lucky to have its beauty swoop down to take scoops of longing out of my heart? Even in the safety of a bed, beneath a roof of thick beams, it finds me. I almost called 911 last night for the pain of it. Aye... The Muse is not yet done with me, thank God. She has all but sent me wandering the washes, awake under the cold night sky, a howling lunatic. She has taken her fill again and sets over the river running with snow melt. The day dawns. Exquisite. How can I carry the weight of this body, the repository drained of light?

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Jump


It seems to be making me more than I am making it. The jump, that is. The jump from trying to make it in the academic scramble to doing community service, from writing for others to writing for myself and then others, from argument to poetry. (That's the hard one to admit out loud.) This decline, this downward mobility, has me by the ... scruff (not what I wanted to write). My brain has become so unruly and obstreperous that I cannot make myself sit in meetings any more, teach the curriculum, or even meet my classes. All I can do is plot my escape. I'm in a crouch by the fence, waiting for the chance to spring forward and out, across the barrier between me and my future. The searchlight passes. Darkness covers my tracks before the next sweep. Time to jump. Up, you fool, up.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Morning


A battered, sun-oxidized, dented, rust bucket of a clunking pick-up truck tows a heavy ass trailer through the darkness. The tools of a landscaper are posted neatly in their tubes along the railing of the trailer. The driver looks weary already, even the day has not yet begun. He has stopped for coffee on his way to the first job. Some younger guys slouch in the back seat of the crew cab. The moon has already set; the sun on deck for its debut. Ah, yes, this is the moment, the magical nut of what might be today. If I could freeze this moment and forever stay here, I would never move again. This is the tipping point on the teeter-totter of night and day, of dreams and having to actually get my sorry ass up and moving into my responsibilities. As tightly as I hold it, it slips from me. There it is, the growing glow, the dazzling shimmer of high clouds. Here it comes. One more chance to get it right.

Just Keep Moving


Yes, the straps cut a crease of pain into your shoulders, and you have blisters and you want to lay it all down and rest. But you know that if you stop now you will never get back up, never keep moving toward that unattainable possible. There is a something up there that takes greater shape with every step you take toward it. It is the voice you heard as a child, the one that you thought you would never lose, and then, one day, it was just gone. But now, after long years, you are getting close, have found the path that will take you there. It is hard walking. What little strength you still possess after all the work keeping food on the table may not be enough to sustain you now. The light of you is fading. Now is the time; this is what counts most. You have to move in spite of the pain, the voices whining and nagging you to stop. Just one step at a time. Lift your pen. Put down one word, then another. Let them reveal that beautiful stone you dropped so many years ago.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Not by Bananas Alone


"Bananas," she says, as you step through the portal, the screen door with its tattered and torn and rusted screen that you should have replaced fifteen years ago. You pass into a world hostile to your peace of mind, your brooding nature. You struggle for a moment to remember. Bananas you say to yourself, letting the vowels limn the cavity of your palate. You think about the sound and where that sound comes from, how it rises from the bowels of your mystery. Vowels and bowels, you say to yourself, considering ways to tend the fire that is your passion, your leaning toward expression of what you consider sacred. This hungry body, this fleshy vehicle, that consumes and perspires and shits between its errors and its epiphanies, eats bananas; but you know that bananas by themselves will not make you really happy. Nor will the images of her wracked with orgasm caused by the movements of you, beloved, fill the hunger to know who you really are. Yes, of course, you crave the comfort of a warm body next to you in bed, the fire of lust, the heady wine of success. But you remember that those are only superficial reminders of the real fuel for your burning fire. You know you must not put conditions on your love, but rather you should feed the fire of your fullness with all you cherish and all you resist: your generosity, your passion, but also your fear, your brokenness, your lack of kindness to yourself, yes, mostly that. Only then will the fire of your soul shine through you in the actions you take for something bigger than yourself. Even though she is busy, maybe doesn't even care, needs help with the dishes and diapers, you remember that it is you, beloved, who tends the fires, the memory of why you are here in this passing form. It is the bananas that you came for, the bananas.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Cognitive Dissonance


The faintest of sounds, a guitar string being plucked, wakes me from the first round of tossing sleep. Then a voice, a silhouette framed in the doorway, a voice calling. An unwelcome visitor, hunched over, not so benign, calls me. The voice is rough, soft, but not a whisper. He is accusing me of something. I want to deny it, don't know what he is talking about. I am too surprised to be afraid, though this has the ingredients of a nightmare. I rise to confront the intruder. He turns away, muttering something. I realize he is lost, deluded. I want to kick him out, call the cops. He seems to know me, seems to expect something from me that I cannot give him. He has nowhere to go. It's my fault for leaving the door unlocked, for being so negligent, for not caring. I have a long day ahead and need to sleep. He shuffles out the door, only to come back later, this time to the back door, more insistent this time. "Let me in," he says. "Let me in. I'm not going away."

Monday, February 6, 2017

Life Force


Sometimes I wish it would just leave me alone: this crazy urge, yearning, desire, whatever it is. The siren song of sleep grows stronger when I get tired like this. The I, that "I" that is me but not really me, wants to set that burden down, retire, get my ass to nearest couch and put on my potato pants. Beer at the ready, next to the remote, dammit. But here it is, four-thirty, and my perky little friend of a happy beating heart has gotten me up again. Wide awake, in the utter darkness of the wolf hour, I and it and the cat are thrumming with life. I should be grateful. It's what I asked for so many years ago when the prospect of checking out seemed the only option. Might as well take the hand of the beloved and dance the rest of the night away. It's perfect, after all, whether I get that or not.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Did It. Found Out. Now What?


So, I did the big test. And, yep, I found out. The news isn't horrible. But neither is it great. Suffice it to say, that my genetic predisposition to dementia is pretty solid. No need to gnash teeth or run to the nearest cliff, though the prospect of a new Subaru is tempting. My local bike shop owner doesn't know about this, but she was pitching the benefits of a hot, new ride -- "on sale, for you, today only" -- without knowing my vulnerable mental state. And, yes, I'll admit that the news has colored my attitude. Yesterday was like trying to stay out the swirling vortex of a black hole. I felt locked into a descent into despair. Got some perspective today though. I'm not a vegetable yet. I still have some things to do and the mental ability to do them. That's all that matters, really. I am just a vehicle for carrying a soul, after all, one whose warranty was never spelled out. No guarantees in this life. But you get a day, here and there, to live like you stole it, which you did, not knowing that it was yours all along.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Get a Job


"Oh my God," she said. "We have to cut out literary texts. Students just point their 'human significance.' We can't have that as an outcome." I wondered why not? Isn't being a better human part of a writing class? Listening to my boss, I had to infer that, no, that was longer part of our curriculum, couldn't count as a definable "outcome." In spite of evidence that reading serious literary texts (not genre fiction or expository non-fiction) improves capacity for empathy and appreciation of complex psychology, education policies have expunged them from the curriculum, from k-12 Common Core standards to university courses. So, it looks like broadening one's sense of humanity, of seeing through another's eyes, of learning some sense of empathy, has given way to teaching technical skills that will then translate into getting a job, succeeding as a corporate citizen. The steady decline of literary study in writing courses comes at a price I don't think I can pay. Inclusion of literature has served me as a pathway to critical thinking, to engagement with social issues, to an aesthetic experience, and to a broader horizon of what is humanly possible. It expands students. Eliminating literary texts from a first year writing experience reduces all of us. It looks like I'll be one of those veteran teachers who can't take it anymore, who leave teaching to look for a job in all the wrong places. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fragments


What I most remember: Floor time at the end of a workday, I am still in button-down shirt, teaching pants, as we move plastic figures around in mock dialogue. Between the dramas playing out on the Brio trains, the animals in pop-up books, we work out the next moments in a delicate sword play of proximity and futures. A ball bounces and rolls as the park sinks into sunset, moonrise. Trips to the ER. Puzzling over algebra; brainstorming an essay about a trip to Mexico. Cheetah shirts, lion hoodies, and jungle pursuits full of roaring and leaping. Drawn out bedtimes. Falling finally into sleep. Washing out dirty diapers; hanging them up before class. Baby shit smell under fingernails as I post lesson agenda on dry-erase boards. The movement of you when you thought I wasn't watching. All of it, once so sharp and present I thought it would last forever, now fades. The edges have blurred, lost brilliance, are sinking, will soon enough be gone, lost to roiling sea. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Dust


He is late. It's five o'clock, and the stars are still out. It's cold on this first day of February. I am waiting for my son. He needs a lift to the airport. He's going back to Guatemala to finish something he needs to finish before he can move on his life he says. It's a love thing. God help him. I wish I could finish such things. At the last minute, he calls. He can't find his itinerary. He's anxious, jumbled up in his head, broken-hearted, possessed. He is also out if work, has dropped his classes, and lost his apartment. I wait for him in the truck, engine idling, and listen absently to NPR voices way too perky for the early hour. He arrives in a flurry of exasperation and loads his sad, oversized suitcase into the bed of the truck. He sits next to me in the dark and we drive through the sleeping city. He says, again, how he should have done things differently. I tell him the past is done. He needs to get on with his life and that this, this crazy trip to Central America to regain the footing of his life is what he wants to do, more than anything. I tell him that he has to remember that, has to remember that soon enough our lives will be over, and that there will be nothing left behind but what we did that was true, honest, and good. I tell him I think he is doing that. I am his father. I love him, but don't quite know what else to say. When I leave him there at the curb, I look at him as I drive away, in the mirror, as he turns to step into the rest of his life.