Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Vegans, Their Problems

There is a lot to eat, no problem.
The past is about eight miles away.
It was maybe a few miles further
in those days, so I hear.  The school
was closer with nothing inside.  My own
challenge came with the dogs.  Something
was horrible, but what?  I didn't mind being
the odd man out.  In fact, I was used to it,
relied on it, even.  Sponsorship of the now.
The pinnacle of sweet being.  How it melted.
How everyone talks about it.  Wool still useful.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Camas Swale Parfumerie

Incense cedars worry
at the edges of the swale
watch multitudes pass
on the road
chained together.

Their feathery eyelashes
drink in the rain
hang up the fog.

They give everything
to keep soil together
twist this way and that.

It is just unclear what to do.
This will be where light is shed.
Tall scholars of air and its perfume
driving men mad with desire then
angry as angry can be
at those whores those trees.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Luminaries Look Forward to the Past

They spell it out at night
exist by day as paper bags
candles inside

but by night they burn
into dreams, into night under
the gateway to the North Umpqua
its wall its tower
Mt. Scott ten miles away
as the raven flies
covered in snowscape huge
every moon a super moon
heavy glob this one
almost an arctic sun
bathing the clouds
bathing the luminarias
I mean farolitos
excuse the mistake
please luminary
regarding the naming
the calling out the remembering.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Migrants And Their Gods

Steelheads climb
up the ladder
look at us obviously
breathing water
at Winchester.  Kings
Queens of the river
clipped tail fins
half moon seal bites:  the red
of the Jacks. Their bodies
made for water, winter,
for running.

I was like this
before.  Saw it was impossible
to steal away
under the cover of bubbles yet
I knew exactly
where I wanted to go, cold work
up to the mountains of labor
of enthusiasm
in the viewing room beside the dam
        The natural underwater home
        of the salmon of the North Umpqua
 rallied my energy  my drive
to get there once again.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Refuseniks

Over time, "refusenik" has entered colloquial English for person who refuses to do something, especially by way of protest.

                                                    --Oxford English Dictionary,(online). Oxford University Press.

suddenly gallop up the hill
Mt. Scott with snow--

up there with Russian olives
no leaves, no shelter, really.

Their outlines like the trunks
of windy trees.  Two horses
one chestnut, one walnut.
Their coarse and tiered manes
muddy hooves, sloe eyes inward.

I will never know them (but)
they will know me.

I try to call to them:  horsey, horsies,
beauty, beauties!  They do not respond
no matter how loud or soft I call.

I will not be theirs
they will not be mine
in spite of summer
when Daisy and I walked up there
with Mom and we could see
Janet had been there--
they had been fed
& I could pet the chestnut
because coming close is still
a kind of wait to go again.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wind Fall

Clock tock quick.  It runs away on skinny legs.  I call it back, want molasses, cheerful, skips away again.  I wish to resemble myself.  Too much at once spoils the soup. Winds like hounds.  Decay halted.  With flowers.  With olden summer.  Not all apples have dropped.  The earth moves on.  It is difficult, resists human effort.  It needs to be medicated, and how.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Good & The Bad Were Good

A letter to the editor I wrote named the look of teachers as suicidal Walmart workers. It was published in the Hawaii Tribune Herald and also Honolulu Civil Beat. The next day, in class, I saw a drawing in a student notebook that had the caption Suicidal Susan.  Someone had read my letter.  Patti Epler, the editor of Honolulu Civil Beat, said she liked my writing.  Now, I have a column that appears every Tuesday called Hawaii Teacher. 

I work in the poorest school complex in the state, a place where it was recently promised that another restroom would be opening up after the break for students to use.  That would make two, then, for 650 seventh through twelfth graders. 

There is an extreme lack of services at the school.  There are not enough social workers.  There is no pregnant teen guidance counselor or class to support those students who would more than likely drop out, perpetuating the cycle of poverty seeping into every pore of the campus.  There are two counselors for students.  There is no transition/college counselor.  There is no counselor for 504 students with emotional impairments/disabilities.

 My 11th grade English class has 32 students in it.  Some students have to share outdated textbooks because there are not enough.  I am glad that I have the number of texts that I do, however.  I am writing this column in order to piece together the things I see and experience in my job as a teacher.  I work with some amazing individuals.  They would rather hold their noses to the grindstone and keep their jobs than speak out.  I do not entertain the notion that I speak for all teachers, only that they daily injustices cannot continue to pile up and pile up without disheartening even the fresh, young/new faces on campus who have replaced abused and burnt-out teachers.  I know of one teacher who is in the last stages of her PhD.  She has a very large family (11 children, plus grandchildren) and her job is very demanding—servicing the severely disabled students. She is not afforded a health aide but must toilet students herself (some physically resemble adults) in dim, crumbling facilities.

Teachers were told lately that they would not get the $1500 hard-to-staff/hard-to-fill incentive at our school if they did not perform satisfactorily.  This leaves teachers not only vulnerable as targets if they speak up at department meetings (or attempt to write a column) but also if they attempt to demand better work conditions.

I have enthusiasm for the students, for their quirks and potential.  I see this potential and their amazing, if often maddening, qualities.  We read, we write.  We read and write together.  We discuss.  They cuss.

I was recently asked if it was difficult for me to participate in the state-wide work-to-rule activity teacher and the union made a point to demonstrate, beginning on November 29th.  I was asked if it was difficult to “shut my door” according to our working hours specified in the old contract.

Not at all, I said.  It was a great excuse to shut the door and walk away from a plethora of problems that a teacher has no business solving or should not even attempt.  Teachers are tired of the sluggish, standstill negotiations.  Teachers need the union to fight like a fierce grizzly.

Because I was exposed to so many different teachers and schools I attended while growing up, I got to see many different teaching styles and methods.  Those I remember the most, taught me right away that that there weren’t any two teachers who were the same, and some of the more popular teachers with the kids I didn’t care for because I had not grown up in those communities:  their popularity had more to do teasing and playing around in class than actually learning subject matter.  I had some teachers who really showed they cared, verbally, and some who really did impact me in unspoken ways by leaving me alone; sometimes by showing cool art films (thanks, Anita Hara) and showing up when I was in the school play (ditto).  Sometimes, it was a comment or question or two that led me to observe their actions (Mr. Connolly, Mr. Ecker) than anything we actually accomplished or read in class. 

Some were to be hated, some were to be loved, and some were to be exasperatingly questioned.  Some were a combination of all of the above.  It seemed, though, that in just a few short months one could get to know a teacher and observe most of their habits.  There were some teachers who seemed to be speaking right to me, even though they were addressing the whole class.  Some teachers didn’t have a handle on anything; they fell asleep at their desks or else were so lax that the class became feral.

What I want to say is that they were just as important to my growing life of the mind as a dozen of Teacher of the Year types.  They were not perfect, some were “horrible” but what happened was that I was forced to consider material, ideas, concepts, and facts for what they were—often at face value, and form the likes and dislikes, my opinions, on my own.

This is not de rigor in the current overload of standardized testing where one size fits all and if it doesn’t, well, just don’t count it. Them.  The students who failed or who might fail in reported data to the superintendent.

I had some great teachers.  They saved my life.  I got to write. This is why I teach, to constantly keep them in my mind, to continue their legacy, their stance in life and to show others that freedom, creative expression, one size does not fit all and democratic ideals are a daily fight, even in an artificial setting:  classroom, students, teacher.  It is a place, and perhaps the only place beside the public library, to rest, to think, to work at and practice the high ideals of the American Dream and its many components.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Mystery of the Mystery Machine


The teachers spinning their wheels round and round
The students turning round and round

wound up, the students turning more and more

It goes no place
but frizzle frazzle
Spit out at random

all together too.
Marching forward

Marching along
the acronyms
Did you see them?
all lined up ready to go

the places missed
however it fell then

spinning nothing
from mouths
from more

that was it
what was remembered

Monday, December 3, 2012

Order Tom Clark's New Book, also Ed Dorn's Collected Poems

Clark has a new book out, published in Australia.  It is called, In the Shadow of the Capitol (Pataphysics Books, Melbourne, 2012) and features photographs by Carl Mydans.

 Also out is the Collected Poems of Edward Dorn, published in England (Carcanet Press, 2012) featuring a forward by Jennifer Dunbar Dorn.

Unhappy Happy

Detectives are happy unhappy.  They investigate crimes that should not occur, yet do.  At a school, event planning should not depend on the dates that senior citizens in the community receive their social security checks and teachers their paychecks to go buy a bunch of Christmas junk to support the school.  This is Walmart times ten.  To the nth power.