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Possession in Great Measure

from “Renditions of Change,” a work in progress

As I teach my students,

I try to be honest

in who I am;

yet, fear

I’m a fraud.

Teaching’s resistance:

how to read,

analyze,

break meaning from words–

then rewrite

in the students’ voices

without becoming

a lie that exalts

the life

they are not.

(February 7, 2019)

Holding Together

to Lisa

from “Change,” a work in progress

Holding Together

For decades now—

I cannot imagine

waking without you.

We move together

like rivers

through the earth.

Even when lost

in tidal shifts,

we are an ocean

holding together

who we are

in the world.

We share this day,

with each small embrace.


(January 25, 2019)

Waiting (nourishment)

from “Change” a work in progress

Too often, when I find time

to write, the clamor of the day

staggers about drunkenly,

muddling my thoughts. So,

I wait, go for a walk, cook.

Eventually all the falderal

falls away to silence;

and, I write again.

(January 22, 2019)

Mother

 

Not from any petulant resentment,

Nor a lack of matriarchal love, but

It does not bother me much now

That mom died a decade ago.

Worry distracted her and kept

Her distant. She wanted me

To be something she wanted

To be, without regard for me.

Her love, no doubt, was sincere,

But was obligated, and entangled

With obligations in return with

A thousand hair-thin lines to untie.

Like rags, I wring my hands, like her;

And wish, like her, I was someone else.

(October 8, 2018)

Turning Point

write-sales-letter

advice to my 15-year-old self

 

Keep writing; it defines you.

you are about to meet your wife;

she is not your current crush.

 

Your dad is dying.

In a couple of months, he’ll know.

It will take two years.

 

Except for your wife,

who you do not know yet,

no one thinks like you.

 

Poetry will save you

now, and again forever:

so read more, write more.

 

You will become who you are.

Quit German, learn Spanish.

(September 17, 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).