A Teacher's Writes

One teacher's thoughts on life, literature, and learning

Category: Poetry I’ve Written

Assembling links and mimicking poetry

Beyond these scattered papers and intimidating due dates

I find strange things to do

during finals week.

Investigating the oral tradition in poetry

and the role of media in communicating a poem

has proved intriguing.

So have search engines,

which lead me to the depths of the National Archives, powered by Clusty

and the discovery of a document “signed” by Sioux tribal leaders

with a simple column of x’s.

Oh, I was working then,

albeit in another browser’s tab,

on creating a research project — one steeped in works cited

rehearsal and resource evaluation.

Eventually I’ll have to grade those, but for now

I’ll head to the office next door, where my colleagues,

who are primarily mothers,

have assembled a feast upon the table.

Thanks for reading.

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A different part of my Christmas break, in haiku

More mold?

I can’t afford to fight–

I’m even borrowing this pry bar.

While waiting for a day and at least one part of the summer to end, I write a poem

Poem written while working in a furniture warehouse

Oh, my dear clock,

Please.

Please,

the next time I peek back into this office

after sweeping the floor or
pacing the aisles searching for something
that might have moved
during the 20 minutes since I last eyed it,

Please

move your little hand a little further,

Far enough that my dulled imagination might spark,
like the two wheeled dolly on the concrete floor,

and I could think of something other than
your thin black arms
piercing your plastic casing and reaching
to choke me –

the big hand abandoning its task while on the eight,
the little hand never actually reaching
the two.

I’ll raise my hand for a little piece of pie

One of the fun activities of our weekend was a pie auction at church to raise funds for a pastors’ retreat that the church helps put on every fall. Instead of a silent auction, which is how many of these things are done, we had a fun-loving gentleman from church act as the auctioneer. The highlight may have been when he goaded someone into bidding against him for a particular pie and then left the other guy hanging – with a $125 pie.

Anyway, we explained the auction action to Eldest ahead of time and she was plenty excited to see it all. Sunday morning over breakfast, she asked me about it:

“Are you going to raise your hand for pie, Daddy?”

A pause for a smile – “No – probably not.”

“I’ll raise my hand for a little piece of pie.”

Grampa was determined to take home Mommy’s pie, which was made with special ingredients to which he is not allergic, and I kept teasing him that I’d try to drive up the price on him. He laughed and warned me, “You better be careful – you might get that pie.”

In the end, I didn’t have the guts to drive him up, but I should have. He ended up having to bid himself up to get to the amount he wanted to donate to the retreat. What I would have done, if I’d had a head for thinking, was have found out how high he was going to go and had Eldest raise her hand against him and win the pie. That would have been fun.

But I didn’t think of it in time. Thinking back on this, I suspect that if I’d thought more ahead of time about making it all fun for Eldest, I likely would have thought of it. Sometimes part of loving someone – whether it be a spouse, child, or student – is to think of that person ahead of time. To plan for that person, to make my efforts special.

May I remember to plan for those I love.

As a bonus today I thought I’d share a fairly amateur poem, which I conceived while driving home from the grocery story with the bag of apples my wife used to make that famous pie.

As always, thanks for reading.

The Difference

Given an hour, an appetite, and a bag of apples,

I might eat two.

But given the hour, the appetite,

and an apple pie,

Generosity might convince me

to save a slice for you.

A performance poem, written for my students and their poetry cafe

Ridiculous . . .

That’s what you’re thinking, is it not?

That I would stand here and read a poem

into a mic

that’s not plugged in

But I must counter you,

Rebut your closed-mind

Closed because you are looking with the eyes in front of your head

Not the eyes inside,

Your poetry eyes

Which are the only eyes you need

At a poetry reading.

This mic IS plugged in, I remind you.

Plugged in clearly and obviously to the past.

Look at it! Follow its line . . .

It leads across America, to a little town called Henniker,

and a 19th Century, 2 story New England house.

At that end you can see my father.

Sitting in an old rolling chair made of heavy metal, with a red vinyl cover,

He’s tucked into the corner by a homemade desk,

Surrounded by radios and wires,

His untucked, unbuttoned shirt hanging down,

Pointing to his ancient slippers held together by duct-tape (never take off the tape once you put it on!).

His bald head shines in the dull light, a light to compliment his red Irish beard . . .

There, to his right, stands a silver mic on a silver stand.

The predecessor to the one before you today.

The one I spoke into

And my brother spoke into

Though no one heard us

But us.

And that was not ridiculous –

It was practice.

Now can you see?

With your other set of eyes?

This mic is plugged in

And what you speak into it reverberates with the fullness

of poetry.

Odes against high school dating

When I was a junior in high school, Mr. Lesniewski, my American history teacher, reportedly brought in a cake for one of his seniors. The cake was to celebrate that she had broken up with her boyfriend of multiple years. At the time, I never quite agreed with his constant mocking of our high school relationships; now, 12 years later, including five as a teacher and six of a happy marriage, I wish I had the guts to perform such a stunt.

And so, in honor of the late Mr. Lesniewski (whose name I never learned to spell correctly), today I wrote a break up poem for one of my students, who said she was planning on breaking up with her not so bright boyfriend. We wrote it on the whiteboard, and she titled it:

Your Mistake

Four rings and like cattle we stampede
down a chute,
treading an ancient green carpet.

Today I see the herd afresh,
Scan it differently;
Today that bull with the ring in his nostril
looks kinder, more handsome,
for not butting me into the rail;

And you,
you are standing in line for the
packing plant
and this poem is your tag,
marking you for destruction.

After completing this poem, I read it outloud and was informed that, while nice, the recipient wouldn’t “get it.” The purpose of poetry is to communicate, and so if my poem would not effectively give the proper message, I had to try again. Thus, this second version, which I titled:

Abridged Version

This moo is a metaphor
in your language.
It means, “Please don’t call me
and we’re through.”

Thanks for the inspiration, Mr. Lesniewski.

A poem written on the occasion of the death of a mouse

Number 6

“San Francisco is a city without graves. . . . In 1914 removal notices were sent to all burial sites, declaring them ‘a public nuisance and a menace and detriment to the health and welfare of city dwellers.'”

– Joseph Bottum, “Death & Politics,” First Things, June/July 2007.

You caught number 6.
   That’s all you told me in the email

And I knew you hadn’t searched for the body.
   Only saw the 2×4 where the trap had laid empty,
known it was nearby,
   and full.

If you had searched,
   and found what I found,
I’d have wished you’d warned me,
   better prepared me,
or better yet,
   taken care of it for me.

Because,
   though I wear the confident grin of the hunter
while spreading peanut butter
   across the copper lever,
I have always dreaded the dressing of game;

Or in this instance,
   of living prey,
come straight from the windowsill of Goodnight Moon,

Or so it seemed, as he sat on his haunches
   and nibbled the remaining bait,
his leg pinned
   where his neck should have been.

I don’t know how long
   I would have left him there
while I paced the house
   avoiding,
trying to uncover a means of disposal
   less hands on,
      less real;

A type of San Francisco denial,
   as if somehow I could make it through life
without any death,
   at least that I know of.

How convenient that your father was there,
   an old farm-boy unafraid
of reality.

I followed him outside
   but hung back by the doorway,
close enough to see the job,
   distant enough to avoid the splatter.