Self-Portrait

This is me:

laconically bored

sitting in the stands

watching from above.


This is me:

focused on the moment

tracing a rune

across the killing floor.


This is not a mirror,

a simple reflection,

rather, a dissection,

a slow flay, where


skin peels off

in thin sheets until

only raw red bits

of sin cling to bone.


I am a myriad,

shattered.

I am a scar,

angry and raw.

(October 14, 2021)

Teaching in a Time of Covid

Tomorrow I go back on contract for my 33rd year of teaching. Last year was one of the worst years because of distance learning and the lack of contact with my students. The Students are always the best part of teaching, and for the last eight years (starting my 9th) at Ann Richards, I have had the best students ever, every year. Last year it was important that we teach remotely. The students, their families, my fellow teachers, my family and friends were at risk to this horrible deadly disease. We stayed at home and did what we could through a screen full of little boxes, because we had to. This year there is a more deadly, more virulent version of the same disease, and even with the vaccine, which a too large group of people refuse to take, and with no vaccine for the under 12 group…. which means ELEMENTARY CHILDREN….. It is more dangerous than ever to go back. Yet, here we are.. going back into the classroom. Cases are already being reported at my school, and the district where my wife teaches, and across Travis county.  I fear for what will happen over the next few weeks and months, as we go full bore back into the schools.I fear for my students.  I fear for my grandchild who is starting in a pre-k program. I fear for my family. And all of this is not necessary, we could stay remote. At the very least the elementary schools should stay remote, until the under 12 children can be vaccinated. I don’t understand what is the end game of the politicians like the Texas Governor, who seem to want children to die. What is the benefit to them? I want to believe in a hell, so the people who are forcing this to happen have some place to go.

as the world burns (137)

the turn was not a turn

you saw with my eyes

I blinked it vanished


she said no it was

not as you said

the way I knew it to be


the ragged lines spoke

with stranger accents

skewed cognates


the way was only 

the way here

the sole path here


the sky cleared

the sky stormed

the rain was dry


the way here was

the only way here

only me here now


I only know

this language

the words come to me


by birth

by chance

by god


she said yes but

not as you said

only what I said


it was the way

I knew the way

the way I said

(May 3, 2021)

neither knowing nor unknowing (#134)

there in the day

to day constancy


there in the grain

of our tongues


as we speak

each to each


of the most

trivial things


there is where

the how arrives


on soft cat feet

oblivious of the night


there is the story

you said then said


along the seams

between dark and light


the story we heard

the story we tell


stitching our scars

along calloused lines


one strangled knot

woven into another


an embroidery

of nooses


until we’re hardened

to brittle words


which shatter all

we once were


thin crystal slivers

from a broken glass 


scattered like stars

across the floor

(April 19, 2021)

palimpsest (132)

tension slips between

skin and flesh

as skillful as a fishmonger’s

blade slices down

the length of an eel

with one stroke

a practiced motion

without thought

like a priest at prayer

each wooden bead rolled

over fingertips in sync

with the slow muttered vowels

one patterned moment

moving toward the next

with endless patience

as the next ritual waits

for the candle to be lit

the words to flow

less with meaning

than as a balm

to still disquiet

(April 14, 2021)

Anger is an Energy

A disheartening day. upon opening my email this morning, I found out that one of the founding teachers at ARS was resigning because of the covid return polices at AISD. Then, this afternoon just before 5, i got another email from the principal announcing that yet another long time math teacher at ARS had resigned. In one day the heart of the math department was ripped out. Ann Richards is an all-girl STEM school, having not just good math teachers, but fantastic female (role model) math teachers is essential. We had two of the best. Had. Math teachers are already hard to find, but math teachers of the caliber of these two are impossible to replace. The covid return policies trickling down from DeVoss/Trump, to Abbott and the TEA, to AISD and surrounding districts is directly responsible for the loss of these two teachers. There will be more resignations and retirements across the district and the state. These policies are causing irreparable harm to education in Texas, which will echo for years after the pandemic subsides. It does not have to be this way. There is no reason that TEA has to cut funding, which is the club they are using to force the schools to open. There is no reason that everyone has to return. There is no reason to put so many people at increased risk of a terrible and deadly disease. There is no Reason. Just Madness.

Lines Written in a Pandemic a Few Days After the Summer Solstice

from a work in progress: “Process, Not a Journey” (67)

our earth wobbles its way

about the sun like a drunk

unsure of her footing

moves again

toward the bar

*

day by day minute by minute

plods toward darkness

for the next six months

each day grows darker

by one minute

*

not quite disturbing

the dullard doves

who coo complacently

on the fence

cardinals and jays

fussing constantly

slip after each other

between tree branches

I watch and listen

to this dance

for hours

and can do nothing

*

as it was in the beginning

world without end

(June 23, 2020)

Today’s Lesson

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”

—T.S.Eliot

my students work over the abstract

idea of redemption in three stories

as a preparation for the wasteland

which we will read for the next class

one thousand miles away students

hide as their classmates are killed

and we are told there is nothing

nothing we can do except pray

prayers are useless balms for the dead

and pale recompense for the living

who must clean blood from walls

and mix memory into the earth

devoid of hope near an open door

we are in a hell we have created

(February 14, 2018)

I wrote this three years ago on the day of the Parkland massacre. I think about my students every time there is another school shooting. And there always seems to be another shooting. And still nothing is done. This poem was published by Shantih Journal.

Romantic Clap-Trap

The bees are dying—

Beauty and Truth of Nature?

Who can save us now?

(October 25, 2019)

Forecast

October begins;

summer still burns the dry air.

We must change our lives.
(October 1, 2019)