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How Poetry Works

An image like a flower,

something simple, a cliche

even, to distract away

from the slight of hand performed

beneath the mark’s open gaze.

Like now, for instance, you turn

your attention from the poem,

secure in your own slow thoughts;

what you trust to know trembles

as if a leaf in autumn.

Here exists my truth and yours.

I can explain myself true,

in a way that you cannot.

Thus, seeds grow into flowers.

(November 25, 2018)

Beg Prudence

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“go in fear of abstractions”

                        –Ezra Pound

 

In evening’s corners,

As Dark stalks the streets,

Times’s serrated silences

Gnaw even king’s bones,

Content in the certitude

Another mundane day has,

Once again, passed unmolested

Into Memory’s vague grasp.

 

No need to fear, abstractions

Are ubiquitous as starlings

Murmuring along the eastern hills.

They pulse and turn back on us

Like cold-clotted blood,

Until we can no longer breathe.

 

(October 11,2018)

Misaligned

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She moves the block to the right

slightly, turning its axis

parallel to the table’s edge.

It is now as she imagined,

arranged in her mind’s symmetry,

aligned with the larger world.

Life would be easier if only

every one would take care

of everything instead of her.

But they don’t. So she does

what she can to help

put things in their places.

Yet the world she desires

rarely mimics the world

she lives within,

and the difference grows

as roots in a forest

askew to any explanation.

 

(September 7, 2018)

My 30th Year of Teaching

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(part one)

I never wanted to be a teacher. Yet, I am about to start my 30thyear teaching in public schools in Texas. I have worked in four middle schools and three high schools, taught 7ththrough 12thgrade, taught newspaper, yearbook, English 7th-12thgrade, pre-AP English (8th-10th), Gifted and Talented middle school English, Advanced Placement Language and Composition, Advanced Placement Literature and Composition, Dual Credit English through Austin Community College, and The University of Texas at Austin. I even taught a German class for a semester. This year I will be teaching four sections of Advanced Placement Literature and Composition, and for the first time a creative writing class, as well as a film studies class, also for the first time. With an average of 150 students a year, I will have had contact with 4,500 students in my classrooms. My first students, 7thgraders in Beeville, Texas are turning 43 years old this year. It is possible that their 13-year-old children could have been in my class at one point in the last decade.

Over time I have come to like teaching, although every year I think about quitting and doing something else, but am never sure what it would be that I could do.  Every few years for the last 30, I start to think I am pretty good at what I do, then something happens to make me realize that perhaps I am not as good as I think. Teaching is a humbling profession.

As a high school student I would have scoffed at the idea of becoming a teacher. The last thing I wanted was to return to school after graduating. Now I feel at home the most when I am in a classroom, either as a student or as a teacher. I left high school to become a journalist, but a professors advice to find the victim’s mother to get a good quote, drove me that same day to change my major to English. I like to write, although my first English advisor told me cynically and accurately, “One does not necessarily learn to write in English.”

Right out of college I worked as a baker at a local bakery in Austin, Texas French Bread. It was only for a few years that I worked there, but it still holds some of my fondest memories. One morning  (4am) on the way to work, as I waited on the stop light to change, I thought I should do something with my English degree. When my shift ended at noon, I walked over to UT and found out what I needed to do to become certified to teach in Texas.  A bit more than thirty years later, that quick, almost whimsical decision at a stop light led me to where I am now, teaching at an all girl public high school in Austin, Texas— and my life’s work.

 

(My plan is to write about my life as a teacher over the course of this school year. Topics will be determined pretty much in the same manner I decided to teach—through chance and whimsy).

Minnows

fish-pedicure

 

Metaphor turns all

to itself. I am no more

the subject, than I

am the object. Like Delphic

seers speak god’s voice,

the poem moves through me—

changing itself like air

moving slowly across grass.

 

As a child I’d dangle

my feet in Clark’s creek.

Minnows nibbled my toes

cautiously; I’d sit still

as god listening to prayers

happy in my boredom.

 

(June 6, 2018)

My Son Explains My Poetry to Me

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One does not want to find

the body on the floor,

bits of brain and blood flecked

in patterns on the walls.

 

After decades scribbling

these poems to the page,

reading hundreds if not

thousands of others ,

 

apparently, I just needed you.

So, please, tell me, my child,

what my poetry means

to an ignorance like mine.

 

Keeping in mind, the reader

finds what he wants to find.

 

(May 16, 2018)

Hubris

daedalus

 

“Gods make their own importance.”

–Patrick Kavanagh

 

All the passions, indecisions,

And inarticulate fears

Which seize you randomly

Throughout the day,

All the sudden moments

Of chaos, and clarity,

Of lust, anger, and charity

Are more than you, yet only you.

 

Reason cannot hope to contain

The gods’ whispered instigations;

Wisdom’s inherent in your skin,

And transcends all interior

Motivations like accomplices

Waiting nearby for the fall.

 

(January 23, 2018)