Friday, February 27, 2009

Somebody's Daughter

We all carry pieces of her,
for luck, I suppose,
perhaps for a glimpse
of who we used to be:
for me, I was once,
somebody's daughter.

A string of glittering crystal beads
now encircle my neck,
while a pale green stuffed frog
takes up residence
on an unmade bed,
and a Kodachrome picture
of the three of them
hangs next to the sharp
metal corner of a locker.

These are talismans, for us,
our sad treasures,
but an easy form of solice for those
who lost track of her,
such that she was.

What claim do we have on these things,
her things, even on her?
We lost our rights
when our busy selves couldn't stop
our incessant moving, doing,
or even look up
as she slipped away, a whisp of
flesh, hair, and bone gone,
gone, gone,
under the door.

Be a Teacher; Change a Life, or Something Like That

I'm getting old, I think. My teacher's optimism is graying at the roots. Proof? I spend a little of each teaching day in my building's kitchenette, hands gripping one of my many mugs that celebrate creativity, grousing about my students' lack of interest.

I can't fathom disinterest. I was never able to wrap my hungry mind around this dead concept, but when I was younger, disinterest seemed to have a cure. I would reach them, I knew, if I just tried hard enough. I used to play a game--a capture the flag kind of game, (capture the mind, I suppose) although my opponents never even knew they were playing. The game went this way: when I noticed a disinterested student, a student staring out of the window or a distractedly doodling student, I would flip on my power switch--teaching directly to that lost student, ever more determined to bring him back to the heat of my focus. Most often, it worked, and then our classroom would hum along in some approximation of intellectual unity.

The game doesn't seem to work these days because the ranks of disinterested students have grown, seemingly multiplying indifference infinitely. Even today, there might have been a bland explosion in one of the first floor classrooms. Sometimes, though, I still pull off that willing suspension of disbelief, and the students follow me leapfrog style to the interior of the human heart. When they don't follow, stubbornly digging their heels into mediocrity, I can't believe it's all me. I continue to work the crowd, pulling out the props as I do from my bag of tricks--a joke here, a startling fact there, a shuffle-off-to-Buffalo thrown in for good measure.

In the kitchen later, sipping on lukewarm, bitter Maxwell House, I tell my story. Recently, it's always the same, though the class and seasons change. Here is what I have said and probably will continue to say: The hardest punch isn't that my young people impatiently shrug off the lovely bell-shaped words that I offer them each class, words carefully collected from the likes of Morrison and Silko, magical words that peal inside the heart. Worse than their rejection of this luminescent word pool is the dull sound made by the hasty and indifferent slamming of so many minds' doors.