Sunday, July 1, 2018

multiple choice

...but What You Do doesn’t fit into these boxes

the head gardener said from across her desk
which is larger than mine which is larger
than my students’.  It does give her some respect --
she’s almost at the top of the school-desk
chain, after all.

I mean, I know I’m just grounds maintenance
and even need boxes
But mostly, I’m the one who lets the Portulaca grow.

What I Do doesn’t fit into those boxes

It began so hopefully.

I took a seat, noticed the books that lined the shelves
behind her by authors I didn’t necessarily agree with.
Still don’t, filled as they are with all those foolish
lists and diagrams and charts.

And boxes.  
She opened my file, and with it the End-of-Year Conversation --

“You’re the best teacher I’ve got, you know
that don’t you?”
I mumbled some uni-syllables in some un-rememberable
order: “Wow. No. Um. Yes. Well. Oh. Um. Thanks.”
and considered (not too guiltily, I must confess),
the Pay-for-Performance payout I would get.

… but What You Do doesn’t fit into these boxes

You see, you and me, we can’t have a real relationship
if your job is to judge me, compare me to my friends,
and by those boxes that you checked
during a half-dozen ten-minute “Spot Observations” --

determine my salary.
Even you don’t like doing it, I get that, please don’t
tell me.  Even within an argument essay,
that's a pretty lame attempt at pathos.

It’s all irrelevant anyway --
there will never be enough money
for us all to be Exemplary.

Race to the Top means someone’s at the bottom --
competition in our world sows even more doubt
and insecurity than we already know.

We are all the lettuce of the parable --
who need more water and less sun and certainly
less blame for not growing well.

And what seeds are we really sowing?
Do we truly believe that the re-seeded Portulaca will bloom
in the cracks of our neighborhood sidewalks?
Or should we weed them out?
Rev up the Weed Eater and lop off their little blooming heads
to make things more tidy?

Don’t judge me for how many blossoms
there are, or how many seeds take root --
because some will never find their way under the concrete to the light
and others have been blown so far away
and planted themselves in places where
the woman holding the garden hose speaks another language.

Schools are not Businesses
Students are not Consumers
Knowledge is not a Product

You wanna know what our schools really need?

We need Professional Development we seek out ourselves
and you pay for it, and we convince all our colleagues
to come along because it will make us all Exemplary,
Racing to the Top as if we were holding hands
in a long line of Red Rover Red Rover
and we’re going to hold so tight that noone we call over
will ever be able to break through.

And we really don’t care if we get more money
for how tight we hold hands or
when our name gets called or
if we break through and get to bring someone over
to our side.   We’re the ones who would rather be
happy than rich and you know it --
and you’ve taken advantage of it for far too long

We need more men.  More people of color.
We will get neither if the seeds
of funding and fairness
don’t find a place to grow

We need accountability -- of course we do.
We would be the first to admit this.   
We strive every single goddamn day to be
accountable to our students -- and ourselves.

But it’s hard, because there’s no box for
Makes Moments of Joy or  
Uses Love to Impart Knowledge, or
Demonstrates Authenticity

And even if there were, there would still
be a gardener, looking out the kitchen window
comparing us to our fellow flowers
in the window box

We need our own mentor texts
(red ones and yellow ones and even some purple ones)
to cross-pollinate with the convictions of youth
and create a whole new, fearless hue.

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.