Too Many Conversations to Slough Off


After the teacher conference

spent listening to others

speak of techniques

to hold their students

locked around an idea

of reading and writing

with little actual reading

or writing of consequence,


I am reminded of a Greek

statue of a wrestler,

who stands silent

scraping sweat and

filth from his arm,

his day done.


(November 11, 2018)

Two Views of a Teacher

1.    resistance
too insistent
            in your insistence
                        that we must be
the way you wish
            us all to be
yet not so
            obvious to you
                        that we are
and we are
            not so willing
                        to be like you
2. acceptance

your hand
graces my arm
as you speak
encouraging me
to take a chance
to jump toward life
to be happy
to trust
your faith
in us all
(May 23, 2013)

Exceeds Expectations

Your life: your life
surrendered, given up.
Such a casual phrase-
given up, like a game
one grows tired of:
you are given up, lost,
immolated by expectation
to a stranger god who waits

unaltered, unloved,

for one more offer.
How much you give
is inconsequential:
give up more, until
you can no longer bleed,
until you’re denounced
in your own destruction.
(December 2012)

A Test

the color of truth
so ingrained in the wood
of our lives the christian
clergy still wear it

black and white
an obvious demarcation
a quick sidestep dance
between yes and no

this and not this
as if words could be
milled to such precision
filed within a dust of difference

true not true
one goes forward
to make better lives
we are told

ever vigilant for normalcy
the other’s tossed
quietly onto a pile
a simple quality control

where no deviation dwells
where no heresy is spoken
no tired eyes from sleepless nights
no worry about the wife’s cough

or where dinner will come from tonight
nothing to stop the winnowing’s purity
everything’s perfectly replicable
all here in black and white

(August 2011)


orderly rows of trees
lie fallow
after the harvest

apples full-red and crisp
fell alongside others
some green some gnarled

i tend to the trees
lopping old limbs
a necessary pruning

there is always more
than the season allows
the trees are here now

the fruit will grow
despite ourselves
the work remains

(June 2011)

Where Was the Son?

I have a student’s father who wishes for his son to pass the year. His son never comes to class. If he does come to class he comes 20 minutes late, so he is technically absent. When he does come to class he does not bother to find out what the class is doing; instead, he plays with his phone, or puts his head on the desk. I have talked to the father repeatedly, both in person and through email. The father, at the end of each six weeks, comes and gets work for the son to make up. The son does not do it, or does not do enough of it to pass. I am meeting with the father tomorrow, the father wants his son to be able to make up the work for the the six weeks that have already passed by. I feel it is an insult to my class and my students; they have worked all year, coming to class, reading books, writing essays. They are passing. He is not.

Once More Into the Breach

Work starts tomorrow. I have had an oddly easy going prep for the beginning of school this year. My room was set up, I prepped all the paperwork for the first week; I even wrote and turned in my first lesson plan five days before it was due. I feel as if perhaps I have lulled myself into a false sense of security. Last year I had the best group of students I have ever had in 18 years of teaching. I fear that they have made me feel the need to be less prepared. Although when I go over what I have done, I really haven’t done anything less than I have done before. In fact it seemed easier this year than in the past. Maybe I’m finally getting the hang of it.

I finished Myers’ “Changing Our Minds” for Bomer’s class. Lots of things to write about from that, but I think it will have to wait. I found it interesting however that when a shift from one form of literacy to another occured it happened in the elite first. It corresponds, I think, to the way we as teachers get blasted for not teaching what we did not know was wanted by society, when we were doing quite well teaching what we were teaching. I have also thought, Each time the state changes the “test” there are dire predictions concerning how poorly the students will do. Yet, amazingly: the students do better than was expected. Perhaps both teachers and students are smarter than we are given credit for.