Tuesday, May 29, 2018

orphans of meadowgrass

I want for her
a heart
that will never
be cursed,
shoeless feet
to walk the earth
beyond the wall
       (the boys who guard the gate
are so easily swayed)

outside her village,
she will learn
to sing her
own lullabies
(but that won't be the hardest part)
she will realize that she
has forgotten her mother's
voice, and she will not
recognize her mother
tongue.  She will wander
until she finds the well
in a land where she doesn't
know the rules.
      (except this one, which never changes -- animals always move toward water)

they may worship
the organs
of stoats
or have
no vowels
in their alphabet
or maybe even
not have
a word

for heart

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

the broadmoor is a bully

So I went to the last Public Strawberry Hill Master Plan meeting tonight. It was an open house, lots of pretty pictures around, very few people. I was honestly doing ok with the aerial photographs of trails and such, but when I got to the conceptual plan for the picnic area, my heart broke. Not one picnic pavilion for 100, but what appears to be three picnic pavilions, room for at least 250. And a paved road right up into the meadow for their shuttles, with a loopy turnaround.

I had taken some half page flyers with me, simple bullet points outlining where we are in the court case, along with info on the Parks Department's North Cheyenne Cañon Master Plan and its effects on South Cheyenne Cañon. I put them out on the tables, a little pile on each side of their comment boxes, and then proceeded to walk around and talk to folks. The flyers were purple, so they stood out against the white tabletops.

About five or ten minutes later, I noticed they were gone. I scanned the room and saw a woman (one of several standing at the entry table) holding them behind her back. Some of them had been torn in half, and some of them were folded over in her hands.

I approached her and said, "Can I have my papers back please?" At this point, I really didn't think anything of it, and fully expected her to just hand them over. As I reached out my hands for the papers, she pulled away and said that I would have to ask Jack about it. That's Jack Damioli, President and CEO of the Broadmoor. You can't miss him in the room: he's the tall one with the cashmere pullover sweater and loafers. So I walked over to him and asked, "Could I get my papers back please?" Slowly, he stuck his hands into his front pockets, pulled the insides out, looked down at me, and said,"I don't have your papers."

And yeah, it really was in that tone you just imagined: full of power and sarcasm, and it was condescending and patronizing as heck.

Miraculously, somehow, I was still calm at that point, and replied:
"I know you don't have my papers, she has my papers." (gesturing to the woman across the room).
Jack: "Then why are you talking to me?"
Me: "Because she told me that I had to come and ask you."
Jack: "Well, I don't know where your papers are."
Me: "She has them, I told you that already, and I would like them back."

Again, I point out the woman who had them, but she doesn't have them in her hands anymore, which gives him even more license to repeat the line that he doesn't know where they are. This went on for several more crazy-making rounds of me asking/demanding and him lying/deflecting.

Then finally Jack said I couldn't get them back, because it was their meeting. I even told him I would put them in my purse and take them home, if they would just gave them back. He still refused.

I'm not sure where it went from there... me wandering around the room, visibly shaken now, close to tears, a Colorado Springs police officer standing by the door on duty for them (?!), watching me.

I decided to approach the woman one more time and ask her if I could have my papers. She just shrugged and gave me a look that said it was out of her control. I saw a glimmer of pity in her eyes, and I know that if it were just her and me, she might have given them back. She did see me getting one of the chocolate chip cookies from the tray at the end of the meeting, and she told me to take as many as I wanted; I kinda think it was her way of saying she was sorry. I also know if it were just Chris Lieber (used to work for Parks, now works for NES) and me, he might have helped. We had had a good conversation earlier in the meeting -- spirited yet respectful. But their hands are tied, I get it.

I suppose it was at that point that I became the crying crazy woman in the room.

"Just give me back my papers. It's not that hard. They're mine. My paper, my ink. I want them back."

I sat down at a table and just decided to wait. I waited until they were packed up and getting ready to leave, which happened to be about 45 minutes before the meeting was actually scheduled to end, because there was no one there. I waited until Jack Damioli had left. I waited until I thought it was safe to ask one more time. But by then I knew it was hopeless. I simply said to the half dozen or so workers, "I guess I'm not getting my papers back, am I?" Without looking me in the eyes and without really saying anything, I had my answer.

I'm still shook. Not because they took my papers, destroyed them, and infringed upon my First Amendment right, but because one powerful man reduced that whole room to subservience, and me to tears.

The Broadmoor is a bully. Go to brunch with your friends, spend the night with your spouse, ride the cog railway (oh, wait, you can't!) if you want, but please know this: if you do, your money helps pay that man to humiliate me.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

My Master Plan

I sit with my notebook and write at a wobbly,
splintery picnic table, one of many under
this public pavilion.  At least some underpaid
city employee was told to paint them brown.

Through the scrub oaks, I see:  four
old ladies with hiking poles and sun hats,
three hardcore mountain bikers, a snake
of multi-generational hikers, two deer grazing,

a young couple from Palmer Park stringing
up a hammock, an elder couple with binoculars,
a mother and teenage daughter looking for a trash
can in which to place their pooch's poop.

I scramble up a short social trail to the mesa
above the pavilion, and there it is: a spectacular
view of Strawberry Fields, where King Philip
plots his Broadmooresque stable and bbq party venue.

Up here, I watch a hawk hover, hear a bluebird
call, and discover a decomposing coyote.
Below, in the south canyon, I watch white whales shuttle
up and down, as a blaring ambulance struggles

upstream towards Seven Falls. The trails
on this wild and unnamed mesa below Mt. Cutler
are slated to be closed in the new Master Plan --
a plan meant to deflect from the city's neglect.

What should a Master Plan have?  What does a City Park need?
Closed public roads? More trailheads and parking lots for tourists?
Private-public partnerships where somebody profits?
Ideas that will never be funded because we can't even afford to take care of what we've got?

Nah.  What we really need is simple and more cost-effective than that:
places that cater not only to our tourists, but to anyone seeking respite from the city
picnic tables made from those newfangled-recycled-weather-resistant materials
small parking areas that make the creek and its coolth easily accessible to all
trail systems that respect and reflect the needs of the locals who use them
a limited number of cars, but only during peak summer weekends
a regular maintenance crew to keep the picnic areas beautiful
friendly city park rangers to enforce the rules
a budget that reflects our values
trash cans near picnic sites
clean, open restrooms
and above all else...
that playground
you promised
the children
in 2003,
but never

Saturday, October 21, 2017


I made this with an app.  I don't want to learn to speak "app" right now, but I'm going to.  For words, images, and sounds.  Here we go!

It just takes a little longer.  It's so easy with the platforms kids are using today: instagram, snapchat, etc...  I had to save the image by emailing it to myself, then downloading it onto the computer, and then uploading it from "downloads" into this blog post.  

Thursday, July 20, 2017

i dare you

I stole this most excellent graphic from my friend Sarah Hope's new blog, in which she dares herself and all the rest of you humans to do things that might make you see/feel/experience life a little differently.  A few weeks ago, she dared us to put our feet in the mud. For some, I know this is crossing a boundary of sorts, but for me, that's just another day in the woods. I didn't think it was that big of a deal, really.

But I decided to do it anyway.  Not knowing where, exactly to find mud in the middle of July, I decided that there must be some down by Cheyenne Creek, a short walk out my back door.

After a bit of searching, I found the perfect creekside rock, set my composition book down, removed my Chaco sandals, and sank my feet into the water. Ooooohhh. Already, I was thanking Sarah in my mind.

At the bottom, about nine inches down, my feet touched not mud, but coarse granite sand, a natural foot massager if ever there was one.  My gratitude for Sarah's dare grew bigger.  It felt so good I decided to take a walk upstream.  I probably ventured only about 30 yards before turning around, but taking steps barefoot in creeks is such a calculated, mindful experience, it felt like an epic journey.  Plus - it was a whole new world in there! There was a hiking path on one side of me, and a road on the other, but under the canopy of the trees and with the rippling sounds of the water, they disappeared. Then I remembered creek hiking at Camp Kilowan every summer!  Then I started singing:  "Kilowan, Kilowan, your maidens have gathered...."! Then I remembered fairy boats! Then I wanted to bring everyone I knew on a creek hike! I still do!  I have no idea how if it would work (the creek's pretty narrow), but if anyone wants to come with me, I dare you.

(Unfortunately, my phone died just as I was taking it out to get some photos.  I was angry for about two seconds, and then figured it was actually kind of a gift.  No one knew where I was, and there was no way for them to reach me.  I found this to be an extremely pleasing circumstance. Anyway, here's a photo of Cheyenne Creek from the internets)

I finally returned to my rock and grabbed my composition book.  Here is what I wrote:

The water 
will almost always flow 
faster than your stride --  
get used to it.

Pine cone canoes 
navigate the rapids
by not navigating. 

Will you will recognize 
in yourself 
the false prophet 
if you stay too long 
in one place?

The key is to connect 
and disconnect 
in a cycle prescribed by 
the cottonwood leaf

Thank you, Sarah.  For the memories, new and old.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

for Gerard Manley Hopkins

Huh.  Here's a poem I found that said "draft".  I remember writing it, but I totally forgot about it.  It's dated 4/1/17.   I wonder how many other drafts I have in here.

It seems somehow important and relevant that I discovered it TODAY, being the fourth of July and all.  I remember I was trying to copy a form (from Gerard Manley Hopkins) and that it involved rhyming, and it was hard, but rewarding.  Anyway, happy whatever, America!

Glory be to God for dappled beings —
    For humans of couple-color;
        For the immigrants' brindled descendants;
Butt-dimpled newborns who cross borders in slings;
    Deserts dotted with dolor;
        Following the Pied Piper of Independence;
Vainglorious attempts at Euclidian geometry;
    Whatever is not-so-evenly divided (smaller);
        Freckled, splotched, mottled, transcendent;
He knows that beauty does not rely on symmetry:
                         Praise Him.


Monday, July 3, 2017

is david lynch still relevant?

I'm going to attempt to write a few of my truths regarding the new Twin Peaks The Return.  I'm not sure where it will take me.  Trying to write about Twin Peaks feels sort of like entering the Red Room itself.  Anyway, here goes...

Truth #1:  I've only watched through episode 4.

Truth #2:  The first time I watched Blue Velvet I was in college, and so stunned out of my everyday existence that I walked around for days in a daze, wondering if what I thought about the world was even real. I've been a Lynch fan ever since.

Truth #3:  That said, regarding Twin Peaks, I'm only in it for the nostalgia.

Truth #4:  I loved Agent Cooper with a fancrush love.  Now he's gone (well, actually, there are more of him, but none of them are the one I loved), and I haven't fallen in love with any of the characters yet in the new series. This is a huge problem.  At its heart, a show needs a sympathetic character to draw me in.  The sympathy is gone.

Truth #5:  Oh shit, there it is!  Why David Lynch is still relevant.  There is no sympathy in a world that has Bob in it.

Truth #6:  I fell asleep twice during the past four episodes. (It was late, and I was soooo sleeeeppyyyyy......  but still). Well, damn, there it is again. The excessive slowness of the pace only serves to reveal our own shrinking attention spans.

Truth #7:  When Bobby walked into the room, saw Laura's photo on the table, and cried, I cried right along with him. Classic Twin Peaks soap-opera moment, complete with Laura Palmer theme song. Thanks, Dave.

Truth #8:  Twin Peaks The Return makes me laugh. Andy and Lucy's son telling his parents they can do whatever they want now with his childhood bedroom.  Lucy's incomprehension about how cell phones work. Every time Cooper yells, "Helllloooooo" at the slot machine.  Former psychiatrist Dr. Jacoby spray painting shovels gold. My favorite so far, though, is when Lynch, playing FBI Director Gordon Cole, says, "I hate to admit this, but I don't understand this situation at all."

Truth #9:  OMG this moment!

Truth #10:  If you understand this genus of funny, we can be friends.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

stages (a study)

I have two poems in process right now.  They were seeded in two different forms.  One was on
20 July 2017 and is handwritten in my wide-ruled Composition Book; the second is in Notes on my iphone, auto-dated July 18, 2017,  to which I attached pictures that may never make it here.  The journey is almost too far, even though it's wireless.  The distance is time.

I am going to transcribe each of these "seed writings" onto the blog, and, of course, revise as I go.  It can't be helped.  I am curious to discover how two juxtaposed starting positions might create a different experience for me as a writer as I struggle toward publishing.  How did I get from there to here?  Did handwriting or texting have better outcomes?

Neither the texted Note nor the handwritten Composition will be better or worse than the other when typed up here on my blog. I have no way to prove this hypothesis. Maybe the proof will be, "What do my friends think?"

A first draft (Stage 1) ever only really exists as its seed. You don't get to read those. Nobody does.
This, right here, is Stage 2.
Also, lately, my blog posts have been Stage 3 poems.  They have been labored over and crafted.  I'm very proud of them.  But they lack something.  Voice, maybe?  Context?  I don't know.  Like I haven't wanted to just write for the sake of writing anymore...  There's always too much thinking now.

I like thinking about poems as having Stages, though.  Like cancer.

Please remember that what you are about to read are Stage 2 poems, maybe 2B. They still have lots of growing up to do.  Any kindnesses or critiques you might like to bestow on them will be welcomed!
Also remember that you do not know which is which.  I think they call this a "blind" study, but I honestly really don't know.  Feel free to make guesses.

Procedure, con't


Write each of your poems
as if it were your last—
As if all tattoos were temporary,
which they are, of course,
if you really think about it.
Send each of your words
to the darkest cave chamber, whose
walls have never known sunlight.
Make sure your poems have
napped in hammocks and
slept on Greyhound busses.
Let your phrases pierce our defenses
like terrorists, and be the Ones Who
Know. Read every poem three times—
you can't get it all on the first go.
Don't even try.
Write each of your poems
as if someone will read it
three times.


We remember backwards best
I walked where once we kissed
My body remembers it as resurrection
My imperfect memory sees pathos

Here's the hole into which we almost fell
The lessons are all common sense
And we thought the trees and their shadows
could hide us from the moon.

How foolish, how almost tragic.


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Caye Caulker, Belize

In a motorboat skimming across Caribbean
Blue, the shirtless Islander pilots like a pirate.
One-hand on the wheel, he tells today's tourists
Stories of his Great Barrier Reef Boyhood.
Listening with lust, novice young snorkelers
Adjust their unfamiliar equipment, and awkwardly
Await their turn in the turquoise below.

A ceiling fan revolves, whirs, hums, delivers
Tiny breezes across naked bodies, sprawled
Like already forgotten suburbs. From the wall, a lazy
Lizard watches the only movement in the room–
A single thumb stroking a satisfied cheek. Outside,
The regularly-scheduled afternoon thunderstorm
Tells the stirring lovers in Neverland: Go back to sleep.

Escaping through make-believe walls, the sound
Of reggae rhythms, melodies.  At sunset, lured
By unbroken beats, sandaled feet wander from boats
And beds toward the bar. Reefer floats on the sea air.
Barefoot and nearly bare-bodied, American girls sway
With Rasta boys on floors of sand. Sometimes,
They stay, and raise beautiful blue-in-the-moonlight babies.

But most times, they manage to barely not miss the boat,
the bus, the plane, and end up in a gray airport, inadequately
dressed, asleep on a cold seat, waiting for a ride home.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

not tonight

The lights have gone out in Caloocan City.
You'll need to tell them.       Tomorrow
Would be a good day.  You need to say, "There is no God
In Caloocan City, not tonight."

While we slept, God got torn apart—
Not north by south or state by state, or even zip code
By zip code.  No,    God got torn apart neighborhood
By neighborhood, house by house, apartment

By apartment.  But really, it was life
By life, sifted out by the parties they attended
To.      You could ask them to remember the radio–
How it tried so hard to find the middle,

But no one had the mindset.
So they said they didn't have the money.
They said, "The churches will save the slums–
Go back to bed."      But

The lights have gone out in Caloocan City.
You need to tell them.      Tomorrow
Would be a good day.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Vespers for the Voiceless

If I were to commission a stained-glass window for my Church,
It would be a single Nightingale upon a beech branch in springtime.
Her tongueless trills would be the Hymns we would sing at sundown—
No noticeable pattern, only an algorithm inherited from the Ancients.

Our Priestess wears her sandy plumage as a sacred vestment,
Her legitimate lineage endows her with the power to Pardon.
Her mutilated blessings would help us to forgive our Tereusian Trespassers,
And dare her Congregation to turn laments into Praise.

Sunday, March 19, 2017


Sap's Rising;
it has been tapped, captured,
heated to pouring perfection.

Seeds're Sprouting,
warmed by layers of grief
and the sun's return.

Sun's Setting
on so many sacred
landscapes.  They need rain.

A magpie is nesting.
Drawing upon his ancestors'
DNA, he builds.
He is not sure why.

Spring's coming —
tomorrow, I think.  The Planet
is ready.  A few things still
need to die.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

who made it possible for you to march?

Who made it possible for you to march?
Tell me, can you tell me–

who filled the salt & pepper shakers
your waiter will twist?
Tell me, can you tell me–

How much of a tip
you left for the immigrant
who made your bed?
Did you think about her as you drifted
off to sleep, worrying about whether
or not the others
would care if you snored? Or was it only
when it came time
to dole out the few crumpled dollars
you discovered in the pockets
of that coat you hadn't worn in ages?

Tell me you will read them more poetry.
Tell me, can you tell me–

Who made it possible for you to march?
Was it the husband or wife who picked up the kids?
The partner who prepared dinner?
The friend who covered a shift?
The teenager you trust enough leave home alone?
Tell me, can you tell me–

what you have inherited from your ancestors?
Tell me, can you tell me–

Who made it possible for you to march?

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ghost Ship Blues

I've never been there, yet I know this place.  It has had incarnations across the Earth, and in all eras. The one I knew was in Portland, Oregon in the early 90's. I was in my early 20's.

I don't remember its name, or even if it had a name.  There are things I do remember, but I don't think I can put them in any particular order.  (Besides, the order of things, once you can read Heptapod.. hmmm... I find myself thinking about the dialogue that might have happened around the table during the making of Arrival...was there an Agenda Item 2b:  Hepta vs. Septa,  or was it just a discussion that began organically, where someone had an idea and the other person said, "Yeah, and..." my money's on the latter...  all the good jobs in the future belong to the creative class anyway... as I get older, I find I have less and less tolerance for meetings with agendas, real or hidden... whatever, my point is that somehow or other they decided to use Greek instead of Latin...and oh yeah, I forgot it was a book first, so the decision was actually probably the original author's, so never mind).

As I was saying:  the order of things, once you can read Heptapod, is less important, and your linear thoughts may well start talking in circles, just like that parenthetical non-sentence above.

The List of Things I Remember in No Particular Order

1.  The Mezzanine that came alive at night
2.  The beyond-handsome Mexican poet
3.  The openness of the kitchen -  every pot, pan, dish, glass on makeshift shelving
4.  The vintage sofa with warm crocheted afghan
5.  The slight chill.  Hence: afghan
6.  The smell of tobacco and herb
7.  The random communal drum kit
8.  The long hair and knit sweaters and trench coats
9.  The gloves with the fingers cut off, on whose hands I longed to have hold me
10.  The sketchy neighborhood (that would become gentrified in ten years)
11.  The openness of everything
12.  The awkwardness of everything

Awkward because I wanted to belong, fully, completely; there was a heady mix of nostalgia for the past and promise for the future that led to art, and which I understood at a cellular level.  But I Didn't. Quite. Belong.  Not Totally.  I was a first-year teacher, trying to adult for the first time, head still full of revolutionary educational ideas, but also full of an MAT degree, lessons to plan, meetings to attend, and students to be responsible for.

I loved it though.  I loved the company and the conversation most of all.

There are so many moments in your hazy young 20's you forget.  But you never forget dumpster diving with the artist boy/man crush (and that one time you found and hauled out your favorite teak desk that is now in your 16-year-old's room), then returning to his cluttered/clean apartment in the warehouse, and smoking cigarettes, and having a 26-year-old Mexican poet drop in to read to you from his journal.

I was never quite sure if it was safer to take the stairs or the elevator.  They were both adventures.

I don't mean to idealize this life, either.  Some of it was filled with drugs, some with despair. But I would venture to say that it wasn't much different than your average home at the time, just less hidden. And it was alive.  Of that, there is no doubt.  I'm also certain that people will start looking for someone to blame, and that the owner of the building is going to have to "own" his part of the tragedy.

Anyway, that's just a whole lotta words to simply say, no matter what the circumstances:
I mourn the loss of the Ghost Ship, its people, its heritage, and its future.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Strawberry Fields Forever

I am sitting on the bench that overlooks the Strawberry Fields meadow. I say the bench, because there is only one, and I'm fairly certain the city didn't put it there.

It looks pretty bleak now on this 29th day of February.  The dry grasses are resting parallel to the ground, and the scrub oaks are gray.  But the sky is blue and the breeze is light and new life is waiting patiently below the surface.

The city, however, does not appear to be waiting patiently. Everything is happening way too fast.  Final City Council vote may be in April, they say.  April?!  Why, in April around here we have only yet just begun to see new buds, flowers, and grasses!  How can our city council vote to give away something they've most likely never seen up close in midsummer?! This decision will be HISTORIC, will affect the citizens of this city for centuries, and must be carefully and thoroughly dissected.  That takes time.

Do you know this land?  I do.  I know how sound travels in the canyon, and how I can presently hear a lone hammer working on a deck on the other side, and the chimes from Will Rogers above. Imagine the noises of a wedding pavilion/picnic area and horse stable, echoing in the Canyon.  The Broadmoor is trying to sell us on the idea of public access on the 180 acres they are not using, but I'm here to tell you: there will be horses on trails throughout that 189 acres, and that 8.5 acres that is only accessible by Broadmoor guests will include the loveliest meadow, the one where people can just meander up the hill and find, accidentally.

Last summer, I did just that. While exploring the area for the first time, I came of the woods into the meadow unexpectedly.  Upon seeing the tall grass undulating in the breeze and the mountains surrounding me, I instinctively opened my arms and did a couple of 360's.

In summer, the area of South Cheyenne Canyon around the Starsmore Discovery Center  is a cool haven from the heat of the city for many. I understand that Barr Trail and the Incline are also used by many, but they are athletes and outdoor enthusiasts, not families and toddlers.  It is still a scant few of our population who are able to or desire to do the incline, yet almost everyone is able to access Strawberry Fields.  To have this meadow off limits to everyone who can't pay is immoral.

I am especially angry at how this deal seems to be a "divide and conquer" strategy, pitting the trails people against the open space people.  We should all be on the same side.  That's why it's called TOSC:  Trails and Open Space Coalition, but it seems the almighty "T" is taking precedence.

Two men arrived down in the meadow while I was sitting on the bench.  I wondered whether they were city men, business men, or Sierra Club men.  Turns out, they were sort of all three, and were still undecided. They were there, hiking the land, even the steep terrain that I've never done, to check it out. They noted its appeal, and observed that not many people seemed to use it.  They wanted to see for themselves what the fuss was all about. I applauded them for their curiosity.

That's what I think we all need, a hike in the woods and some curiosity.

And now, a chill wind has come up, reminding me to put my down vest back on. A hawk soars.  The sun has traveled farther to the west, yet still warms the left side of my face, and I have to squint a little to write. My greatest hope is that this proposed land swap will turn out to be a good thing, simply because it has put Strawberry Fields on the public's radar.  Curiosity can lead to other possible solutions. Like purchasing parcels the city wants with TOPS money. No master city parks plan should ever include trading away a parcel it already owns, even if that parcel is largely unknown. Perhaps, since one of the major complaints is that it is not well taken care of,  part of a new master plan could be for Parks and Rec. to improve the trail markings and maintenance of Strawberry Fields. That's their job.  And ours.  There is no reason that the public couldn't raise thousands of dollars to help the city with maintenance.

This swap proposal is the product of a private corporation's greed, and the public's failure of imagination.
(no wonder the Broadmoor wants this land- just look at that gorgeous view of the hotel from up here)

Finally, an invitation.   Mayor and City Council: come walk Strawberry Fields with me.  Name the date, I'll meet you in the South Cheyenne Canyon Parking Lot.  Bring your layers and hiking boots;  it's still winter and the snow/ice patches are slippery. Or perhaps you'd prefer to wait until May, when you can wear a t-shirt and tennis shoes, and I can show you my land, our land - green and growing. You might even be inspired to do your own Julie Andrews impression.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

invitation from a dried thistle

prickly stem–
a minor repellent
that would never stop
the most determined,
like parental threats

dried and delicate–
but not yet ready
to be dead,
like the paper-thin shell
of what used to be
your mother-in-law,
who still has enough barbs
remaining to hurt you
in many small ways

the rattling of seeds in the pod–
keep time to the breath of
fluid-filled lungs

you are invited to play a game–
she loves me
she loves me not.
but where will it end
if the answer is both?

and now you only want to write
about your bread and coffee
and about how it crunches and chews
but mostly how it fills
the places only gluten and caffeine
and love can fill.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Where Were You?

I spent my morning at Mountain Fold Books with Dave Reynolds, creative writing teacher at the Fountain Valley School.  We debated line breaks. He talked about the allure of azure and other Latinates, while encouraging us to stick to the direct and honest Anglo-Saxon for imagery.  Then we read a poem called Where I Was by Dan Brown (not that Dan Brown), in which the author recalls where he was the day Kennedy was shot.  After that came a poem written by one of his high school students, which was modeled after Where I Was.  Her poem was, appropriately titled:  Where I Was, only it told the story of where she was on 9-11.  Then we wrote poems about where we were, on some significant date in history.  There is something about being given a form, a structure, and fitting your story into it, that is not cheating, but rather it is liberating within a constraint.  I think we have forgotten what it means to learn by imitation of the masters.  Anyway, here is mine.  It is titled, of course:

Where I Was

I was sitting in the front row of all
Places.  My eighth grade algebra class
Was solving for x in silence: the
Way Mr. Gunther liked it.   We feared his
Citizenship grade.  Every
Time you talked, he made a red x by
Your name in his always-open
grade-book. 5 x’s equalled 1 grade
deduction, 10 x’s equalled 2, and so on
in predictable function form.

The equation I don’t remember much
About:  your basic exercise
In keeping everything
Balanced.  How whatever you
Do to one side, you have to do
To the other. Algebra is nothing
If not just. The memorable thing
Was that the PA came on.  How our
Secretary began, “Attention, students”-

But not the announcement I expected.  Not
How the after-school dance was
Canceled. Not lunch menu changes.  Not
that the volleyball players
were to be dismissed after 5th period -
None of that. What the words amounted to
Wasn’t the worst thing: not
"President Reagan has been shot."
But rather that I had cheered.  Half the
Class erupted into applause.

Mr. Gunther, for the first and
Only time that year, closed his
Gradebook, stepped out from behind
His desk, and talked to us-angrily but with 
Conviction-about something other
Than solving equations in two variables.
That day,  I learned that compassion
Should always come before
Politics, and that citizenship means more
Than keeping silent and avoiding red x’s.