Monday, November 26, 2007

the accident

It was an accident,
your average fender bender
with a glacial blue van
that shimmered like fish scales
in the wet intersection.

It was like gently bumping
the boy in front of you
at the water fountain line,
except the boy turns,
droplets clinging to his snarling lips,
and he is an older man
wearing a black scarf and a camel coat
blooming blotchy as his face.

What were you thinking, he keeps saying.
It’s only a week old.
I count my husband’s apologies
through the windshield,
his hair spiking with the salty spray
of rain and rising frustration.

The words between them are choppy,
compressed as suddenly
as the space between
our bumper and his.

The scarfed man looks at me, darkly.
I am impassive and buoyant,
bobbing aimlessly as a bird
in the gray passenger sea.

His wife, in her matching camel boots,
emerges from the yawning whale’s mouth
and rounds behind the wheezing newborn,
a leviathan transport netted from the deep.

The whale and I sigh heavily under her scrutiny.
She runs her hand quickly
along the wet bumper, flinging a sheet of water
over our shared maritime misfortune,
and I can feel the fin smooth under her fingers,
as smooth as cerulean sea glass,
tumbled up on concrete shore.

p.s. I also wanted to title this "The Fin-der Bender" or "A Whale of a Tale" but decided it didn't quite go with the poem's tone. :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

days, or a poem disguising a note to my sister

"Days" by Billy Collins

Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to build on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday,

you whisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday's saucer
without the slightest clink.

p.s. I hope that tomorrow will not be "just another Wednesday" for you. See you all next week.

p.p.s. Dear Paige, if you are reading this: DO NOT eat all of the marshmallow yum-yum salad before I get there. I know you are the one who makes it, but still... :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

happy thanksgiving

10 things that I am thankful for besides my family, friends, students, dog and God:
1. words
2. those who read them
3. smiles
4. those who share them
5. kleenex
6. those who offer them
7. cows
8. those who milk them (and add chocolate)
9. trees
10. those who plant/climb/walk underneath them
I know my blog hasn't expressed this enough, and maybe it is passe to be thankful during Thanksgiving, but I am thankful for my life and the chance to share it with you all.

Friday, November 16, 2007

the eye doctor

The eye doctor is gentle and always says please.
Please now, rest your chin on the black plastic disc,
center your forehead and stare straight ahead.

As if the word rest could bring comfort,
as if I could close my eyes
in this black plastic muzzle and snore.

I suddenly remember my eyes as round.

He is looking through, to the backs of my retinas,
at rods and cones and optic disks --
the pathways to reflection etched before I was born.

My eyes are watering from the sharp absence of blink,
but I don’t. And then I do. Blink.

I pretend that the flickering pulse of light
is a distant star, and I am only
one science fiction moment away from the milky way
splayed out around me --
all of that black cavernous space
instead of these tight elbows of robotic arms.

I am remembering how blind I have been, seeing
the succession of patting doctor’s hands,
the sharp bright light of bad news.
Sympathy makes space between vowels:
No, no, not this time.

I wonder why it is the very thing that we try not to think
when we don’t want to cry that makes us cry.

I find myself blurry at the eye-chart.

I can’t identify a single sculpted S,
and when the mustachioed man with the soft voice
asks if I’ve always had those scars deep
on the backside of my retinas,
I am still mute.
He continues asking the unanswerable questions.
Better? Or worse? Better? Or worse?

I do everything the eye doctor asks.
I even show him how his photograph of the eyeball,
a fiery explosion of lava, moon and dust,
looks exactly like a supernova.

And when he laughs,
softer still,
I realize that I’ve made him see something he couldn’t before.

Dry and dilated, I feel my way into the blinding sun.
I make sure, then, to remember that I have cried.
I have cried for one light year,
and twenty minutes of wet relief
have made me squint again.

Monday, November 12, 2007

a thin, albeit itchy place

Today as I was laying between sun and grass in my backyard, here are some things I thought about:
1. Mike Cope's explanation on Sunday of "thin places." This idea appeals to me, but I am having trouble really identifying with it. Now, I may have not gotten this totally correct, what with my tendency to contemplate vampire teeth during sermons, but what I think I heard was that these are places where heaven and earth are collapsed; therefore, we go to or remember these places to feel God's presence or listen to him. Mike's main biblical example was the place where Jacob had his Dream. During service, we were asked to share our thin places with our neighbor.
The person sitting behind my friend had a brilliant, meaningful thin place, which I don't quite feel comfortable sharing, even though I'm not vain enough to think he will ever read this. However, it had to do with his late wife and our weekly recitation of the Lord's Prayer.
On the other hand, I made up a thin place, so I wouldn't be a bad Christian. Okay, so yes, I like the Boston Commons. And my parents' trees. And many different lakes, beaches and swimming pools. I used to have places where I could go to be in nature or water and be alone, and maybe I thought I was communing with God, but now I'm not so sure they were really "thin places," not like Jacob's. Maybe I'm just confused. Do we really need a "place" to commemorate those we've loved and lost? Or am I making this too hard? Maybe we do all need a place in our memory, a place of profound beauty or loss or change to help us understand who we are.
2. I really hate when people spread rumors in church about books/movies that they haven't read or seen, based upon internet research and/or hearsay. I believe that this is a form of Censorship. The latest young adult literature book to be crucified by non-reading parents everywhere: Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass series.
3. I should get my oil changed.
4. Maybe this is a thin place. And maybe you shouldn't try to discuss theological issues in your blog. You don't really pay attention enough to do that.
5. Yes, your dog is about to eat her own feces if you don't stop her.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

lunch, with friends

It was a day when I said everything was fine.
I was messy and put my feet on the dashboard.
I pulled at my bangs.
We drove until we saw them walking toward us on white gravel.
I pointed to the smokestack waving under clouds.
We squinted.
We ate chicken fried steak and were surprised.
Seven sat at the table, tasting friendship one bite at a time.
I pulled the child away at the last second.
He bowed his head when I tickled him.
He laughed in a striped shirt.
We made promises in the parking lot.
We only told a little because we were so happy to be there.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

revenge of the nerds

This may seem like a very strange subject for a blog, but I am irritated with my students for undervaluing and disparaging nerds. For the last two class periods of Freshman English, we have been watching a documentary called Spellbound, which won the Academy Award in 2001 for Best Doc. It basically chronicles the journey of 8 contestants in the National Spelling Bee. Several of the spellers' parents are immigrants and their teachers comment on how this affects their worldviews; however, wherever they are from, the spellers all value hard work, discipline and intelligence. Let me say that my students, who are watching the documentary, have shown me that most of them do NOT value these attributes. I can tell from their responses to the video that, for the most part, they think these kids are certifiably crazy. They scoff at statements like "I study 8 hours a day in the summer, and 5 during the school year." They laugh at the kids' nerdy glasses, speech impediments and awkward idiosyncrasies. This makes me furious. Especially at the ones who are failing my class. They just fail to see the connection between hard work and success. In fact, I have had several students come to me recently complaining about their lack of motivation. What I want to know is why these students were never taught to value these attributes, to understand that the "nerdier" you are, the more success, and the more opportunities for success, is available for you later on.

I grew up in a snobby/rich/privileged (however you want to say it) part of Houston. I was NOT what I would consider a "nerd," (too busy trying to get into trouble with my "bad" friends and/or swimming 2-5 hours a day), though I was in the Honors Society and made good grades. However, I always had a keen sense of the fact that the nerds would have the final say. So they're awkward or socially uncomfortable... but so what? It just really does not make sense to ridicule someone who can spell 40,000 more words than I can.
Lately, I have found myself apologizing for being a "nerd." When people asked me to explain my Halloween costume, and my answer was "poetry in motion," I apologized for my "nerdy" idea. When people ask me what I do, and I talk about my PhD in Literature or teaching at a university, I often apologize by saying, "I'm a giant nerd." This clears the air, and makes people (women and men) feel at ease. Maybe I shouldn't do that, but I find it helps to keep the conversation from sudden death. However, deep down inside, I am very proud of the fact that I can say that. I am a nerd. I am lover of learning and literature and words and poetry. It's so much better than the alternative. So, Student X, when I tell you we don't need the running commentary during the movie, what I'm really saying is, don't diss my peeps, dude. You could learn a lot from them.

Monday, November 5, 2007

I came home, and washed the day off my face.

"Escapist -- Never" by Robert Frost

She is no fugitive -- escaped, escaping.
No one has seen her stumble looking back.
Her fear is not behind her but beside her
On either hand to make her course perhaps
A crooked straightness yet no less a straightness.
She runs face forward. She is a pursuer.
She seeks a seeker who in her turn seeks
Another still, lost far into the distance.
Any who seek her seek in her the seeker.
Her life is a pursuit of a pursuit forever.
It is the future that creates her present.
All is an interminable chain of longing.

p.s. I changed all the masculine pronouns to feminine ones, because it's my blog, and I can do what I want. This poem means something to me today, a day when I feel as if I have tried too hard at life. Meanwhile, I read three poems at the Shinnery poetry reading tonight. Then I ate some cherry pie with a plastic fork.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

an ordinary day, or 10 miracles

Okay, so a big thanks to those of you who filled out my questionnaire from last week (and to all who have read and/or commented). Your responses were informative and entertaining, though I was a little disappointed with your dreams. But maybe that is in comparison to the wacked-out stuff I seem to conjure every night. (Maybe next time... )

Anyway, like I said I would a while back, I tried to make a list of ordinary things (see "falling in love with carrots"), but everything "ordinary" ended up seeming amazing to me. My list of "ordinary" things was reduced to 2 things: coke cans and paperclips, and even those have an element of the divine. So NOT ordinary. So I decided not to try. (Though I would love lists from you all.)

Instead, I will list some "ordinary" things (read: amazing miracles) that happened to me today at ACU. Most of them have to do with my students, since I've been here since 7:30. Who knows what will happen when I step foot off campus!
These are in no particular order. Enjoy.
1. One of my students described a doctor taking two pins out of his hand. Two words from that conversation: "slippage" and "bone."
2. I opened a book to a poem about a cat. Then, I emailed the poem to a good friend.
3. Seven people commented on my zebra-striped shoes.
4. Five students laughed when I told another student that his journal entry (he asked to share) was the worst drawing I had ever seen in my entire life. It was.
5. I ate a really good chicken strip given to me by another good friend.
6. When I was "grading," I realized that people walking by my window were making beautiful shadows on the wall.
7. At 7:32 a.m., a David Gray song, listened to for the 5 millionth time, made me tear up. Me: sitting in my car, spilling coffee on myself. The lyric: "Say hello and wave goodbye."
8. Nathan called me and had good news.
9. Many books on the bookshelf to the left of me. My own private cheering section.
10. A memory of sitting on the garage roof when I was 10, with my brother. Swinging my legs over the gutter.

Well, I realize this entry might produce quite a yawn, but to me, these things matter.