September 28, 2018

a school is a universe

To walk the grounds of a school
with the bureaucracy pulled away
is to enter multiple universes.

Beyond reports and meetings
and trappings of frustration
children create and analyse art,
find ways to reveal meaning in their lives
through fiction,
pass a ball and learn to dodge opponents,
explore their way through processes and cycles,
unpack concepts, ask questions,
perform concrete and plays,
solve problems, equations, and disputes with friends.

To walk the grounds of a school
is to enter multiple universes.

I see a baby bird banging against a wall
near the fifth floor hallway.
I try to corral it
but it hops away from me
flapping it wings frantically
panting desperately.

It’s tiny beak
breathlessly
open.

Tired.
Exhausted.
Over burdened.
Distrustful.

It continues to hop away
as I approached.

I want to catch it,
cup it gently
in my palms and carry it down stairs.

Now it’s near the edge of a ledge.
I wonder if it can fly,
maybe I should just leave it alone?

I take one final step
it leaps,
floating down
five stories
like a leaf
with a heart.

A few flaps and it is on the ground.
hard to tell if it is better off,
or if I helped

a school
is a universe.

September 18, 2018

some kind of worthless victory

i ate three plums today,
each
an
hour
apart,
and this feels like
some kind of worthless victory,

not only because of their cold
sweet texture,
but because the act
reminded me
of that poem
by that guy
with the same first and last name.

you just mentioned
that the new candle you bought last week,
doesn’t have a hot throw.
“don’t you know about these things?”
you ask while giggling into the kitchen.
you’d be surprised by the things I don’t know,
but we both know that’s a lie. 

what is a marriage
if not an unraveling
of the things we don’t know.

chris brought the book into my life
a few days ago. he had sent me a message
about how whilst discussing the work in his classes
my former students had commented on how I looked
like the poet.  we periodically speak
in the lunch line about what we’re reading
or writing and this poets name came up.
two days later the book is in my life.

chris sometimes gives me gifts.
he once wrote me a hand written letter:
highlighting the things that made me and our friendship special.
i was moved and stupidly proud
that i know a guy who writes letters like that.
he might be embarrassed that I’ve shared this story
in this hastily written poem,
so thoughtless shared,
in all places,
a facebook post and a tweet.

i’m not sure what I’m supposed to be about.
but i know that
starting and ending a day with a poem
is a good way to appreciate

plums and wives and friends.


September 9, 2018

Service Is...

Service is leaving things better than you found them. It is getting a towel and wiping down the table at Santai after you eat. It is asking your friends if you could clear the table for them or hold the door open for the person that does. It is picking up trash that isn’t yours and learning the names of the people who serve your food and clean our classrooms. It is a smile and a good morning or afternoon.

Service is turning love into action. It is the awareness that other people exist and have needs, just like you and then taking an interest in their lives. It is the ability to empathize and put another person’s need in front of your own. It is saying thank you and please and reminding the people you love or admire that you love and admire them. It is walking in another person’s shoes and wondering how that might feel.

Service is sacrifice without attention or applause. It is working behind the scenes and putting in the hours, the months, the years. It is attending the meetings at lunch while your friends are resting. It is taking five years to see your goals start to blossom. It is your ability to invest parts of yourself that you weren’t sure you had. It is commitment and consistency. It is trial and error and being open-minded.

Service is traveling and talking to the locals. Ignoring the tours and getting to know people. Sitting on the ground and playing with children, asking questions, dancing awkwardly, eating new food,learning to look foolish and laughing it off. It is seeing all cultures as valid and important. It is valuing diversity and promoting understanding. It is celebrating embarrassment and finding joy in the absurd.

Service is internalizing injustice and finding ways to pick yourself up and fight. It is about speaking out at every opportunity against racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia. It is about equality and fairness. All over the world, but also in your classroom, in our hallways, in your heart.

Service is making mistakes and learning from them. It is taking responsibility for your actions and teaching your peers. It is being a kind leader and a useful team player. It is not about being perfect like a saint, but about taking small steps, each day toward bigger goals. It is about being true to yourself, even as you are constantly changing. It is about laying the foundations of who you are and who you are becoming. It is about finding the heros and deepening your values.

Service is ignoring the voices that say you are lame. Ignoring the people who pride themselves on cheating the system. It is finding ways to make your world, in even the tiniest ways, better. Not using straws, watching the packaging in what you eat, checking the label for Palm Oil, because you love turtles and orangutans. The oceans and the forests. It is reading the news and following current events. It is about boycotts and protests.

Service is getting to know people who are different than you, and not just from Kenya or Cambodia, but in your grade level, in your class. It is taking risks and building confidence. It is worrying about peace and justice more than popularity and being liked. It is taking a stand when someone needs it most. Defending the underdog, even when you are the underdog, knowing full well there is a dog further under than you.

Service is tending to the cynical voices in your head and fanning the flames of your ideals. It is realizing that, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.” It is singing that the, “Times are a changing’” and finding causes to stand for and ideas to champion. It is reading the news and finding allies. It is about making connections and building teams.

Service is political and personal. Global and local. It is saying that the world and its future and everything in it, matter enough to you right now to learn more about it, care more about it, do something about it. It is clean water and healthy food. It is understanding the causes and impacts of poverty, crime, violence and working toward solutions.

Service is uncomfortable and awkward. It is sometimes boring and painful. It is getting your hands dirty with soil and watching a seed grow. It is sitting next to an elderly Chinese woman while she stares into the distance, you might feel vulnerable and small, and this is service too. It is giving a younger kid a high five, or a teacher a compliment when they teach you well.

Service is being open and honest and truthful with yourself. It is confronting your own bias and prejudices. It is overcoming pity and shame, and the need to fix the world through blind charity, but instead investing your blood, sweat and tears into the lives of other people. People you might not know from across continents, or maybe your neighborhood, mother or father.

Service is derailing the status quo and business as usual. It is the opposite of the grind and bureaucracy. It is finding your strength and passion and skill-set and finding ways to connect to other people. It is widening the circle of your influence and being open to influences on you. It is about listening to other people.

Service is not something you have to do.
Service is who you are.