Thursday, March 15, 2012

(T)reading their path

Here's a teaching-inspired poem from my untidy stack of writings. I hope you find it encouraging.

The View from the Front

I took the classroom clock down last week,
because the students and I could no longer
handle its incessant ticking.
Its thin second hand had become a brick,
repeatedly flinging itself at
our thick pane of silence.

But now, as the students focus
back on their books,
I peer over mine
to see what has caused such a stillness –
to find out what can possibly have happened
to bring twenty four teenagers to tranquility.

The flutter of a page, then another,
a clearing of the throat, a sniffle –
not much is happening here, or so it would seem.

But behind the spines clasped tightly
in the students’ hands,
a world is being rolled out
like a new carpet, cut perfectly to fit
into a bedroom full of light.

These kids may not often leave their bedrooms,
their home state, or their profile pages.
Their eyes now, though, have opened wide
to Alaska’s white wilderness,
and their bodies have felt the power
of the Ganges against them.

Each opening of a cover
shoves them forward into a village,
or a living room,
or a club car on a train railing toward Italy,

and they keep turning,
trailing behind the words on the page
that are beginning to look

like a line of ants hiking across a sidewalk
and on through a field,
then into a cavern where a low flame
throws a glow against the dusty walls.

Friday, March 9, 2012

To do list?

You know those times when you have a dozen things to do and some free time to actually get them done? That's when I look outside and see a poem sneaking by the window, reaching for the doorknob.

It's those times when I know I should be doing something that ultimately has little importance; that's when I find poetry to be a welcome excuse, a stealer of time for whom I conveniently leave the gate unlatched. Here’s my latest little thief.

The Breakup

In the grass under this bench
lies only the lead-tip end
of a broken pencil.
The eraser end is nowhere to be found.

What happened, I wonder,
to split such an indivisible pair?
Did an angry author force their divorce?
Or was it a mutual breakup?

Or perhaps, the lead had gotten sick
of its partner’s second guessing,
back-stepping behavior.
Maybe the lead had finally had enough.

I’ll bet it slammed the door
with its backpack slung across its shoulder
and set off to live a new life –
a life free of the eraser’s constant regret.

I’m sure that somewhere the eraser
is sitting alone, curled up on a wooly patchwork sofa,
longing for the company of its ex –
the pencil lead who is now bounding through
the tall blades of grass beneath this park bench.