Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sitting in the K Falls Library with ee cummings, Emily Dickinson and the Dickman twins. I've closed Michael's "The End of the West," a poem too raw to let me rummage through like I
usually do. He's brave, this brother. Matthew is more Whitmanesque, protective of
his readers. Michael's more f*(& you, this happened. Oh. What happened yesterday 7th period
(and I thought I was over this but apparently not, I can't stop telling anybody) was a direct
punch to the face, aslant only in that the wielder of the blow was shorter than the receiver. How hair trigger how match to sparkler how falling star fast what happened IS.
I said, "This has to stop." I said, "Stop!" My voice pitched low, I lunged towards what was now a bear hug, the room afire with adrenaline and desire for this to escalate. A troubled class,
ten boys. And where was the certified teacher? And what does a poet know to do?
I knew one thing: this had to stop. I made the boys separate. It stopped. The punchee energized and giddy, the puncher laid his head on the desk partly hidden by his jacket, the room awash in racket that lifted like geese, laboriously and continuously, the rest of the period.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

BANNED BOOKS WEEK here in the Klamath Basin.
I photocopied pages of the story 9th graders read
and had to write 5 paragraph essays about. Handed
them the pages, handed them Sharpees. Had them
make BLACKOUT POEMS. Amazing to me that
some didn't wield sharpees, but all gave them back
today. I borrowed 9 from the office, need to give
those back. I prefer to be the endless font
of whatever you want, but physical resources
are limited. "Can I have a quarter?" Jeremy asked
at break. "I don't have any money," I said, then
checked the zippered pocket of my teaching bag.
"Nope. Sorry." He wanted to buy a muffin.
I wanted to give him a quarter. And a million
Sharpees and a good life and dental work.
There is so much more to school than school.
There are germs in the air boring into ears
I'm not talking about microbes. Or earbuds.
I don't even know what I'm talking about,
though my nose hairs detect toxins, head
throbs. Come on, just wield that sharpee over
the page. If you don't know what you're doing
GREAT - please, don't know what you're
doing, it'll be more interesting. Substitute
not too awful, ponytail down his back, my age.
He wants to be a writer, to write a novel or
poems, he could if he had time. "It's all about
showing up at the writing table," I said.
He comes from a family of professional
musicians, can't tune, he said, the radio,
but spent did he say four or forty years
studying math? How come it's all about us
adults and not the kids with the sharpees
on their desks, talking about homecoming?
Nostos is Greek for homecoming, Nostoc
is the genus name for mare's eggs. I saw
thousands of Nostoc yesterday from
my kayak on Spring Creek, held three,
broke one open accidentally, like a water
balloon whamming against the patio floor.
No smell, the colony warty green orbs
dotting the rubbery substance filled
with water. Water bubbles from sand
or ash from I don't know where. The head
of the Creek is a dead end, Spring Creek
is fed by underground springs, like
some children must be to survive.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Vagus Nerve - heard about it on NPR, wrote down "Vegas nerve"
because the commentator called it "The Wanderer".
I Googled (correctly spelled) vagus nerve and discovered
a TLA for a new way your life can be messed up by your body.
VNI, which is associated somehow with hiatal hernia,
and which made my eyes glaze. The Vagus Nerves, there
are two, interconnect your cranium with your vital organs.
The dictionary asked me to look up "vague" - which means
in addition to what you know something about wandering.
Uncertain, tentative, and the 9th graders chat and chat. Not ALL of them. It's important to walk around, to see what kids are doing with their assignment. It's important to remember that the loud kids aren't the whole class. It's important not to ignore T. It's important to remember what I love about the juniors. NO seniors. Sadly. I worked with them two years, will wave at them in the hall. Not as much history with the juniors, just last year, a smattering the year before. First days don't tend to be stellar. I feel ignored, sidelined. I am not magical, why does it matter that I come back/came back? What does the new teacher think? She can't talk during prep since she'll be subbing for a teacher who is not at school 6th period. They'll pay her "comp time" - "I'm not sure what that is," she says. After school, creative writing club. After fifth period I'll find a place for us to meet.

One 11th grade boy wrote a poem for his recipe for a fiction stew. It contained a great line, and then a very poor line. He read it aloud to the group while part of the group hung over each other's desks and chatted, as though we weren't doing anything worthy of their attention. Are we doing something worthy of their attention? My reverence for fiction, for the word, for the possibilities reading and writing can bring comes up against the kid who says, "I do not write." He copied the Four Truths for Writers onto his folder. He doesn't do ORIGINAL writing. He doesn't care if he flunks, is daring me to be upset. "I don't care," I say, as I always say. At this school if I made it my mission to capture everyone who says "I won't!" I wouldn't have time for the kids who write. Which saddens me.

Favorite word lists? Forbidden word lists? No more sex or peyote or smoking bowl stories - that last cleverly disguised by the bowl being smoked containing "skunk". I didn't play acronymble with anyone. Let's do that with 10th grade. I taught them last spring.

There were hilariously imagined scenes in a few of the stories, and of course B.'s was deep, long and ended gracefully, though the ending was neither neat nor happy. So glad to give her space to write.

If I am true to teaching writing, I will love writing in public, I will stand up for good writing, and sing its praises, I will read my own writing with gusto even if kids don't have the manners to pay attention. If I am going to go into the classroom, I have to remember where I set my pen and my water bottle and who genuinely wants my attention. It is not my job to second guess whether my work is "good" - it is my job to do the work.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Road trip in rain, dark,
imposition of fog,
expulsion of breath,
inability to see increased
as grip on wheel.
No Kerouac, Jack Cassady,
just me in a yellow VW
hoping to pull in
to the La Quinta Inn
in Bend, Oregon.


White pelicans sighted
on Agency Lake, rain
has stopped, cumulous
billow above Campus Drug,
I sip a genuine latte
at Matteo's by OIT.

The man has left at last
who said, "what
they call child abuse, we
call discipline at my house,"
along with
his child who played
behind the half wall
by the table where I sit.

He invited his table companion
to Chiloquin to shoot guns
this weekend. Come on up!
Borrow my gun, or my wife's.

Train Mountain last night,
a fund raiser, where I rode
the little train, adults single
file on little padded seats
without sides - Cessna pilot
seats, they fold down
when not in use
which was nice
what with the rain.
Little towns and a full size
campground first come first
served where you can stay
all summer and volunteer
to work on the track and
the little towns in all scales,
the little deer and smaller
horses along the route,
the long tunnel we passed
through made from drain tiles.

The vegas nerve is called
"the wanderer" - its branches
wander all over the body.

Magpies this morning, two
sea gulls as I drove along
North Klamath Lake towards
town, a white egret in flight
with its ankles tight together
trailing behind.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I've sacked my stock of readers

and see my followers decline

am I in decline here on the fainting

couch, lumbering towards what?

Jets ply sky above me, I've finished

THE HELP, and who am I to tell

anybody how to live or what to give

a rip about?

Fall in love three times a day

my poetry advice book counsels.

I write that down, but don't

take that crap from nobody.

Nobody can tell me what to do,

not even me. Books lean

along my shelf and I've gotta

come to myself before I leave

To do what good I can through

poetry. My love for words.

My joy in jostling them to make

them sing so I'll take wing.

See that's the thing so easy

to forget. That all the time

the things I love are smack

in front of me.