What they have to learn

The teacher hadn’t enjoyed teaching in a long while

ever since her notions and reality rubbed against one another

exploding the myth she held in teaching college, of making a difference

her students

whom the administrators asked her to refer to as clients

wanted to pay for a degree, not to learn

we don’t have time to study they lamented

we are too busy with everything else which is, so much more important

the students

did not respect her because she earned less than

they believed they would earn in a few years time

she wanted to say DREAM ON but it was no longer acceptable

to tell the truth

especially with college administrators

(who were paid well, to shuffle papers from desk to desk)

watching in the wings

she recalled why

she had wanted to be a teacher

at eight she’d been sent to a foster home

where the ‘father’ decided to show and tell

using his fingers in wrong positions

she ran away and lived

underneath a bridge for the night

listening to the stars wink on and off

and the weave and fall of the world

the next day they found her, dirty and lost

spanked her for making up lies about being abused

and sent her to another foster home

this time the mother

starved her lean

told her she was fat and ugly

when she hardly weighed in

got her to clean and cook and scrub

she preferred that kind of reality

it didn’t involve lies it was honest in its

taste of cruel

when summer was over and she returned to school

a new teacher had begun work

she had the faraway eyes of a dreamer

and her voice was soft like bird song

without saying a word she knew the children who

had been neglected and abused

she’d encourage them often and whisper in their ears

this may seem like this is all there is

but there’s so much more!

one day you will be free to escape your confines

you can shrug off your sadness and become

anything you want

so when the time came for her to age out of the system

she didn’t bring flowers and a card for her foster-mother

instead she packed her single bag and left before

morning showed in the sky

the room was bare and emptied but somehow

it didn’t look so different to when she’d lain there

trying to take up the smallest space

funny that we can inhabit a place for so many years and

when we leave it’s like we were never there

a wraith who didn’t get heard or couldn’t

break out of her little mincing trap of potted meat

she hated the flabby jowls and empty eyes

of those who pretended to keep

her safe

being old enough now to look after herself she

enrolled in teaching college hoping one day

she could reach a child who sat at the back of class

with dirty socks and a mouth full of regret

but time moves on and things change even as they stay the same

kids become hardened, demanding, insolent

hurry up, please it’s time!

parents throw expectations like rocks and call educators

pathetic losers who can’t do, so they teach

she wondered

is cruelty a vein, like in a rock

inherited over time to savage and destabilize

our yearning for safety?

standing there, in her cheap hose and one good pair of shoes

the scuff blacked out by polishing

she saw in the sassing faces of her classroom

a loss of care for changing the world

her own longing to reach through time and alter

one person’s trajectory lost

in the hustle bustle of uncaring formula

spitting out diplomas and marching forward

not thinking at all

about what they have to learn

Written for World Teacher Day. In appreciation of teachers.

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The next generation

This isn’t a pity poem

who the hell wants to read one of those?

but if I’m honest

which I’m not very often

preferring to put on a mask and sit mutely smiling on the outside

it’s sometimes harder to pretend and say nothing

than let it out

if I did let it out

what would IT look like?

am I really so bad for having an urge to share?

the empty feeling inside

surely that’s how we hope to fill ourselves

with something other than hot air or quiet despair?

one thing worse than peripheral is rejection, so usually

we stay quiet about how we really feel incase it’s true

nobody really gives a damn once you’re grown

how I got to this juncture is the easy part

a girl is born, her gender is already

a strike against her in a world easier on men

we don’t treat girls very well

maybe there should also be a rule against small families having smaller families

call it what you like, I call it diminishment

I was diminishing before I was born

when there’s nowhere to go, you usually strive to go up

but I was bad at direction, turned into a box turtle and hid in my shell

hoping someone would pry me out

that was my second mistake

generally it’s worth noting, people do little for free

if I could tell myself that I’d have said; Don’t rely on anything but you

you end up staying inside too long by yourself

before you know it, even the language you speak

taints your chances to pretend to be normal

I look

at photographs of other people

they are surrounded by people, fitting in like

well crafted pieces of puzzles I do not fit

I was the kid sent off to eat with other families, never my own

it felt like a kick in the shins then, and everytime since

feeling ackward in a crowd

because I didn’t learn how

to belong

so this isn’t a pity poem

i’m not chafing with self imposed isolation

not the girl who smiles when she’s crying, or maybe I am

or the one who feels more alone when amongst a crowd

everything is so quiet when that’s how you’re born

it takes a fortitude I don’t possess to break the cycle

erase the twenty years forming a tongue without social skill

I hear the sounds of a party rising over the walls

a party I could be at though, I know

i’d be pressed against the wall without a way out

though all I’ve ever wanted is to learn a way in

i whisper

i am irrelevant in this scenario

self worth is tied to others even as we know it comes from ourselves

i didn’t generate any faith

so I don’t believe in God or me

but I do believe in you

if this was a pity poem I’d ask

why you didn’t help me learn how to live?

though I know the answer already

you couldn’t do it yourself, what chance for me?

we’re cut from the same cloth, you and I

that’s why we both hide

like the man in the high tower

did he ever feel as lonely as I do?

why didn’t he need

the things I cannot seem to reach

it’s like I am stretching out for them

but the betrayal of beginnings and everything after and before, is too deep

we betray ourselves most of all

in trying to be what we just aren’t able to

a teacher once told me you can be anything at all

that’s a lie I know it

we each have chances and some of us have fewer props

so we stand ackwardly by the side

trying to be someone we’re not

until the inauthenticty feels like a curse

we revert to type even as we dislike who we are

this was set in motion before we knew

we’re just the next generation of lost

not self pity, no, more like a pain

a mere poem cannot do justice

The preserve of her emotions

Get up.

When you were ten, your body was a springboard

You bent in the wind, dashing forward.

Get up.

When did you start to believe otherwise?

With the coming of stiff mornings and anxiety in your belly?

As life crept nearer to unknown trials?

When did you give up believing?

You could again, hold the Fates cupped in your hand

And blow to scatter, seed to four corners.

Get up.

The white sheet, covers a multitude of unsaid

An imprint of the living, breathing, fear of mankind.

She appears to be a well behaved woman, with hair needing to be trimmed

But like a cake of many layers, the face fit for public consumption, is just wet paint.

If it was acceptable, she’d grab the quiet man, stooping to take her vitals

And craw in his ear, the gravy of her distress.

What would she say? That has not been said before? Who would care? In an ever-ready world powered by rhetoric?

When she was eighteen, she could command attention just by crossing her legs or flashing her eyes

But what a dismal game that felt, a fraud of poker and thighs.

They only paid her heed due to the bewitchment of youth and some promise it told their nether regions.

So often she’d mistaken lust and hunger for love and care

But they were no more than empty vessels, wishing to dock briefly in her harbor.

Her game, if it was one … of fishing for favor, a warm body, a pretend consolation

Left her desolate, like an addict without pipe

All her fancy, dried up and rotten in the artifice of it all.

And then she’d tripped over that invisible and superficial line

From youth, to something men did not wish to define and women morned.

She however, felt relief.

Not to be the party planner, proving her game was fitting in

It was gentler to command less and need no filling or straight flush

Though they say a woman’s worth, must be found in herself

For her sell-by-date leaves her invisible to the world.

And that was true. She did no longer

Turn heads or find men leant in, too close

Instead she was a ghost, haunting the specter of herself

Unsure why she claimed purchase on earth anymore.

It was as if the mic had been turned off

And everyone left the room

For the audition of younger models next door.

She was not a mother and could not connect

With married women who worried their husbands would stray, with downy cheeked baby sitter.

Nor was she eager to fill her face with plastic, just to feel a little of what she’d lost

(Why was it a loss?)

There seemed no path cut out for castaways of normal

No clear direction to take, on the other side of age.

Men … they remained mostly unchanged

Still harboring the illusions of youth, with rapidly balding heads and expanding guts

She felt so much … but who now wanted to hear her words?

Where was an audience for silver haired creatures of Artemis?

If she’d been an owl, she’d have screeched at night

And people would have woken and said; Goodness, that sounds like murder!

Such was her need to share

The preserve of her emotion.

So get up.

Though it has been long since you hopped on one foot

Or worn brightly colored hats, just because you could

And not, for the fondle of admirations dusty nod

But the sheer delight of being at last

A woman of substance.

For survival is found

We looked at the bright box

Lighting reproductions of your brain

You made the inevitable joke

And I wondered how many had

Sat like us, closely squished into single seat

Faux leather gleaming with accumulated sweat

For humor seems solitary solace

When the world goes to hell in a hand basket

Leaving behind folded gloves with bitten tips

Back then I was untrained, in navigating pursing hallways

Pushing wheelchairs, your head horizontal, stapled

Youth’s strength saw us over the sanitized hump

Out into the car park where we ran, loose gowns and trailing bandages

Afterwards felt like climbing out of hell, without traction

Floundering to understand the submersion of health

I told you, even nightmares have to wake up

And with each removed staple, pulled from your sore skull, you found release

Near did I guess, my own oily cavort with sickness

Lay silently sheathed, like store bought bread, just around the corner

I should have worn those pinching purple shoes and danced

You should have run the glow foam 5k and eaten vegan tamales

We should have visited Kavik River Camp in Alaska and climbed jagged cliffs

Tried the new Japanese restaurant with pastel tea lanterns

Wrung out from quick glimpses, thimbles of life

Instead I borrowed on my new found strength

Worked long hours, forgetting to look out the window at passing moon and sun

Putting off tomorrow, building futures without living now

It is our mistake when shown a lesson, not to stop and be mindful

For survival is found in, the smallest moments

Nearing fire

Ophelia_by_EarthDefectShe was not a hunter

She did not compete

There were no hands on the tinder clocks, rebinding feats.

When it rained, she stayed dry

Her hearth and rug, small morsels of comfort clutched

For not venturing out, salved potential for harm.

She grew up on the black hard bread of fear

Of the river breaking its banks and drowning

Those she loved

It was an inherited sense of loss

Passed down through heavy curtains, generations of individuals, feeling cast off

All the instability of fine china, balancing, teetering, turning to shattered lotuses.

She saw what happened when they lied and said she was safe

She could feel the pink welts, smell the violation, as it poured down the road, a torrent of what humanity can do

To a child.

She grew scars as self armor

Moved further to the fireplace to touch the source of its continual scald

When it stormed outside she didn’t join the rushing tide

The pinches, taunts, jostling, glut on perpetual war

Plasma and soldiers, drunk on devouring dear goodness

She stayed listening to the sound of the rasping wind

Beating on the old oak door

As if everything possible came together and fought

To get inside.

She stayed set apart from her given trajectory, a kite who cut her wings

Turning to liquid and back into wax, only to melt, nearing fire

They say fear is an echo, set the trap, watch it snap back

Until, submerged there’s no end, but the point you began, to let it rule.

She watched fear remove, her skin, her sight, and blind with fright, she consumed her own shadow

Till it was the only place to return, and burning into reduction she saw the reflection of someone with nothing to lose.

Expunging soot from her stained lungs, she let herself pass through the cloak of heat, demolishing every trace

Rising from emptiness, becoming ash in air and last dancer of ember, she saw

Hands spin trees into forests, reclaiming what was lost, in hungering inferno.

A girl who closed the door and checked beneath the bed, was gone

In her place the outline of a cowering form, afraid, yet, stepping from

The thin ledge we believe protects us from imagined harm

When all along we torment ourselves with far greater, considered terrors

Better that we face head on, destroy facade, turn to rubble and rebuild

Our resolution for survival, as we will always near, fire.

That buoyant world

1d763efcda321356fee424333900e93a--sunrise-and-sunset-golden-hourYou are afraid to shut the front door

it is an unblinking eye to the living

you are attached to a virus, like a fly

stuck firm in ointment, will

be claimed slow and sure

by its urge to escape, it shall

sink deeper and knowing this, you

refuse to close away the day, but

by standing against urging cold air

feeling labored breath of all those

who maintain and climb their days into years

by the touch of their effort, and the rise and fall

of that buoyant world

you shall rejoin the wheel as it arcs and spins

counting down our mortal pieces

such as we are, labored by knowing

how fragile the shimmer of life

yet, not yet, yet

we are still

afloat

Water


Do you believe?

In

Things greater than 

Yourself?

Do you believe?

In 

Miracles?

Do you believe?

It will end and you will 

Rise up

Out of your bed of pain and fear?

That it will be gone

Dissolved like thin snow or frost

A beautiful nightmare?

Vanquished are the ghosts

You will in time not

Recall the laminate corridors

Antiseptic sting and gag reflex

A night nurse plunging needle

The faces behind morphine dream

Your room mate gasping as if 

Being ravished by herself

A chink of light through heavy curtain

Of hope

A scarescrow angel, you kept the hounds at bay

And mark, in my heart, pressing jewels to forlorn crown

Each gummy bear, red, violet, purple

Like bruises and flowers lain slow

You visit me there, in the crook of my arm

Where anihalation takes her naked bow

You wipe my cheeks of salt, bestow your own token

Posies of disease, viruses for the clean

Small bird bones picked lean, glossy in bleach

They watch her take the boat too far from land and wink out

Like a smudge on the line between life and horizon

They would 

Ask her to turn herself around

Return to the ward, the pill bottle, the undergarment of her lurk

But she has already begun 

To dissolve

Like fine powder

Moving on the swell of clouds

All around birds make noise

And drown out 

The feeling that

She has nothing left to burn

But the thin blue line holding

Our faces out of water