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)

Perpetual Reinterpretation Machine

dark-forest-2

 

It is familiar enough

to be familiar, but no

more: a scratch in the dark

which stops when you stop

to listen to what you think

is a sound somewhere nearby,

but it’s just you thinking

in the silence to the dark.

It’s absence breathes heavily

as if aroused with metaphor

still clinging to its half-formed kiss.

It waits on memory to form

a shape which conforms to desire’s

simple reduction to a truth.

 

(August 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).

I Sit Beneath a Calder

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–Chicago Art Institute, July 13

 

slow shapes turn about

each other as they turn

together through larger

fluidic constraints

 

the whole turns slower

partly to the left until

a  pause then moves

in a manner to the right

 

others speaking Japanese

move through the space pause

take a picture and move on

 

changing the room’s rhythm

which changes the slow shapes’

turn about each other and me