November 15, 2018

homework

you bring
work home
every night.

it’s not
easy to
get done.

it’s more
than emails
planning, marking.

their problems
linger in
your heart.

one was
caught cheating
near tears.

the other
broken hearted
and alone.

one has
attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder.

the other
needs attention
can’t flirt.

one is
a follower
becoming lost.

the other
appears disrespectful
cripplingly insecure.

you bring
work home
every night.

their problems
linger in
your heart.

so you
make room,
go back
again tomorrow.

November 5, 2018

that girl

thank goodness for that girl       sitting a few rows back
nodding her head and making eye contact            letting you know

that even an ounce of what you are saying      about the power
of poetry       might be affecting at least one person

in your class      a glimmer of knowing and understanding
that might give her a key      to release her from every cage she’s ever

found herself in      the promise you are making is that
if done right       she too can arrange words to unravel the world

and piece it back together      like notes to her favorite song
or the prayers she’s memorised      and recently unearthed meaning in

without her engagement      the late afternoon gets sucked into a vacuum
of boredom and meaningless blather      teaching is the ability to share

love      oh wait      he gets it too over there in back
slouching      he seems barely awake       but you’ve seen the scribbles

in his notebook      the furrow in his brow      the chips on his shoulders
sometimes they trust      that what you say might lighten their loads

can you ever teach poetry        to someone who has yet to suffer
can any one of us understand a single word            if we don’t first embrace sadness

a few lessons ago      a boy when asked to share a poem
began to read a michael jackson song      heal the world

he first mumbled shyly          inaudibly        before he asked if he could sing
as if you had the authority     over the power of song

on that thursday afternoon      he gathered the courage
to share his truth       the others knew enough

to keep their laughter tethered     in their mouths        and the dream we were conceived in
will reveal a joyful face         and the world we once believed in

will shine again in grace          you’ll share this poem
with them      unsure where you’ll go next

Thing You’re Cobbling Together

That feeling when you come home from an unusually tough Monday, but realise that tomorrow is a holiday, Deepavali, a day you feel guilty for not knowing enough about after living in Malaysia and Singapore for over a decade. Not even a wikipedia scan, but you know it has something to do with light and joy- and really how many holidays can one person keep track of. Maybe Shruti will give you the basics in the comments of this Facebook poem thing you’re cobbling together.

Your biggest choice at the onset of the evening was wine or egg nog. You start with some Pinot with dinner, knowing that the egg nog will be best later in the night when you’re eating dessert, which on this celebratory night, might be donuts or ice cream, and if the egg nog has kicked in by that point it will be both. This is the fattest you have ever been, but since you spent most of your life bone rail thin, you pretend that your second chin and protruding gut are signs of being a distinguished gentleman, rather than a chubby slob.

You’re gonna go for a walk/jog tomorrow morning, just to get back out there and listen to a few podcasts. Enough is enough and you need to get back to productive mode. Middle age creeps up on you like a sloven shadow. You’ve forgotten if you’re attractive or not, or if you still even care. You must care, because you spend 26 dollars on fancy hair pomade and you now own a beard trimmer.

But no shame or guilt or insecure narcissism tonight. It’s Deepavali Eve and your choices are limited but favourable. Maybe play a game of John Madden Football, or listen to Ben Harper and see if you can’t squeeze out that poem about teaching poetry you have been carrying around for two weeks.

Earlier in the night you listened to Abba and Megan Trainor whilst making cookie dough with your nine year old daughter. You hope that when she is older, she might sometimes say things like, “I remember listening to Abba and Megan Trainor while making cookie dough with my dad.” You remember making a kite with your dad, and spending so many hours in the darkroom, watching the world reveal its self through developer and fixers and stop baths.

You might pick up the guitar and curate those few chords and marvel at how they might become a song, if you only had more time and focus and talent and whatever else people who write songs need.

This was not meant to be a self-bashing exercise.

There is wine, egg nog, donuts, ice cream freedom, and an endless night without a wake up call. Now where did you put that poem?