Sunday, December 28, 2014

Post-Christmas Poem

Some receive it as a gift, like a child—
              wrapped in festive tissue paper,
              encased in sturdy (yet velvety) bows,
              delivered in public, out in the open, for all to see.

Others toy with it as a string, like a kitten—
              dangling from above by an unseen hand,
              dancing from side to side (albeit erratically),
 enticing the playfulness from within, out, for all to see.

I walk behind it as an enigma, like a disciple—
              examining its angles and edges from afar,
              imagining (fancying, even) the mechanisms on the inside,
              yearning to clasp it in my hands, out in the open, for all to see.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This poem is for you and you and you (and also you).

This poem is for your bones,
those cramped calcified frames waiting to unfurl.

This poem is for your words unspoken,
those we repent for not having heard,
those we wish we could still hear.

This poem is for the kaleidoscope of your eyes,
those revolving hues of browns and greens and blues,
those nearsighted retinas oblivious to the blurred distance,
those irises slamming down the windows to the light.

This poem
is also

for me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Past, Past, Future?

When I was very young
              and oh so dumb
                             (like a couple of months ago)

I felt attraction
              based on physicality
                             (fatally so I might add)

Now I am charmed        
              by a sense personal responsibility          
                            (cheers to that)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

poem featuring a forced conceit of commerce


i will my form
into the cardboard cube
and feel the constriction
in my lungs
as the shrink wrap
seals me in

the thud of my own weight
resists the conveyor belt
shaking my organs
until I lose my mass
and float

then the vertigo of transport
lulls me
into unconsciousness
until dozens of rough hands
pitch me about
and arrange me
for display

oblivion takes over and
once again the darkness
awaits the disturbance
of another set of rough hands
on my fresh smooth exterior
cluttered with refrains
of corporate fingerprints

the beep that peppers
such commercial haggle
assesses the merit
of my varying black lines
until the reluctant rough hands
tender paper currency
and remain outstretched
for the leftover pennies


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Live Open Mouthed

I no longer delight in the delusion of being right.  The years pile up, yielding wisdom—the kind that I feel deep in my belly. The kind that pries the masks off of all of those faces.

When I was young, I believed in absurd things: the things that deep-belly wisdom debunk. The trick is to juggle the hostile aftertaste of deep-belly wisdom with the honeyed piquancy of open-mouthed laughter without dropping all that is you.

I look at the lines staring back at me in the mirror and I open my mouth and I force the laughter up like bile until it becomes real. Then, my laughter transforms into a growl, a guttural grunt that renders the lines staring back at me in the mirror savagely beautiful.  Finally, I stop tripping over the heap of years and faceless masks: I just live open mouthed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday's Nightmare

It’s silly really . . . the terror, I mean.

Such a benign sight:
the grayness of the tile,
the starkness of the bathtub,
the clarity of the water,
lapping over the edge,
soaking the orange fibers of the mat.

My toes drown and
my panicked feet lead me away and back and
my tense arms heave the towels to the floor and
my unnerved eyes shut out all sight.

The more I try,
the less it slows:
I become the little Dutch boy’s finger in the dam,
submerged in water as the pressure builds and then bursts.

The silly terror hangs on even after my eyes open.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Ringing the Alarm in Olathe, KS

There’s an alarming trend in public education.

Is it the dismal prospective of today’s students? Nope. Kids are kids. While generational differences exist, my fifteen years of teaching have proven that some things just never change: gastrointestinal noises will always be hilarious to freshmen boys.

Is it the oppressing arm of the federal government slapping down local control? Don’t sound the alarm bells on this one yet. It’s true that Mr. Duncan’s insistence that teacher evaluation include student performance data is simplistic and misguided, at least the US Department of Education is beginning to show signs that they understand student performance is more complicated than test scores (despite a long history that has already proven this fact).

Unfortunately, the trend of which I am speaking slaps me in the face every day as I enter the school at which I’ve taught for twelve years, Olathe Northwest High. For the first time in my memory, we are approaching the end of the first quarter without a tentative agreement between the Olathe National Education Association and USD #233. What’s the hold up?  Salary? Benefits? I wish it were that simple.

While these details are still negotiated, it appears the culprit is a fair dismissal policy.  Also known as due process, fair dismissal requires districts provide just cause in order to fire a teacher. This right was state law for nearly 60 years, until the assault-on-teachers-disguised-as-school-finance reform passed in April 2014. Now, individual local associations must fight for this right. And with heavy hitters like the Kansas Association of School Boards urging local school boards to “hold off” on negotiating fair dismissal language, it is truly a fight.

So, the alarm I am ringing is the fight for the right of fair dismissal? While this fight rages in my district, the alarm I ring is actually the fact that very few teachers seem to notice. I am lucky to work with people who are all about collaboration and putting students first; unfortunately, these traits tend to correlate with a let’s-not-make-waves attitude.  As I read Dana Goldstein’s book about the history of teaching, I am increasingly convinced that teachers’ willingness to create waves in the past has built up our profession. I hate to think that my generation of teachers is willing to ignore the lessons of the past in order to pacify the societal pressures of the now.

If you’re a teacher in the Olathe school district, educate yourself. Join the professional organization that represents your interest. Then, engage in this organization by attending our meeting at Olathe South on 9/30 at 4:30 pm. We need to hear the variety of voices and educated opinions of the masses in order to engage our local educators like never before.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Worth

My mother's maiden name is Werth. This gives me pause. Lately, my own worth has been called in question, which is hilariously ridiculous at 36.

I have always prided myself on independence. I have never relied on anybody for anything. True, people have helped me along the way. But...I have really never put my eggs in any basket, so to speak.

So, here I am.  Thirty six. Single mother of two adolescents. Have I finally reached the status of reliance on another? Or, is that a fallacy?

Truth be told...I have no clue.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Vertigo





Some rank the light of the public like the shine of a designer shoe
             
Others dwell in the dankness of a secluded alleyway
where we put those things we know exist
but wish to deny in “proper” company
the homeless veteran, drowning his vision with a bottle
the days-away-from legal girl, boasting a set of skills
that make suburban housewives in designer shoes blush
and their husbands in designer shoes patrons

Still others tiptoe in between light/dark, light/dark, light/dark, light/dark, light/dark, light/dark, light/dark, light/dark
where they are deceived by the shine of designer shoes 
and willfully unaware they are what is denied in “proper” company

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mercurial

Guilt is a peculiar creature. At times, it’s an ever-present bedfellow. It expands gradually, scooting you farther and farther to the edge. You have that moment in which you teeter there—knowing you are destined to fall, even more that you deserve to fall—but in that moment, you just focus the weightless serenity of imbalance (willfully ignoring the impending crash).

Other times, it comes out of nowhere. You scurry from task to task, the rush and automation of every monotonous day, heedless of it crouching in the corner. Then, one image. One word. And—SLAM. It hits you like a brick. Like a brick-filled sack of clichés. It sucks the air out of your lungs with its tired familiarity.  Your heartbeat surges until your head whirls with the old thoughts. You are left . . . gasping. Off balance.

Sometimes, its aftertaste lingers. It colors your face and body movements as you play the role of yourself for the remainder of the day.  At least one notices but remains silent. Other times, it dissipates quickly—leaving you to wonder if it was there at all.

But it surely was.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

poem written in 60 seconds

apply the functions
2 the columns
the values fail
2 add up

your face
the wrinkles outline your eyes
framing their inhumanity
the familiar scent welcomes
my false sense of security
null value

run the calculations again
check 4 errors
a misplaced decimal
some faulty estimation
anything

simple math
fails
me
again

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Anticipation

I want to feel packed in
     the weight of feet of snow
     the heaviness of the moist granules
gnashing at my skin
    an unfit wrapping for its interior

I want to feel suffocated
     breath constricted in my chest
     fingers laced around my neck
reaching across its expanse
    anxiety building until

r e l e a s e


Monday, July 14, 2014

Four Fallacies of Motherhood

I’ve been thinking a great deal about motherhood lately. About my own mother, my grandmother who raised me, and even myself as a mother. About its essence, its challenges, and its victories. About my oldest, recently 18, who moved out of my home only to return weeks later (to my relief). About my youngest, recently 13, who strikes a fragile balance between wisdom beyond her years and naïveté of one much younger (to my consternation).  My reflection has led me to many conclusions, one of which is motherhood comes with a lot of . . .

How can I put this delicately?

Well, it comes with a lot of stupid shit.

1. Being a mother makes me special.

Nearly ¾ of American women have children, according to Gallup. Now, I may not be a math whiz, but how does being part of the super-super-majority make one exceptional? This is not to say that being a capable mother is easy or trivial, but the state of motherhood is in itself the norm.

2. My children are not average.

Average is, by definition, calculated using the sum total. Every child is exceptional in some ways .  . . and unexceptional in others. So, stop entering the Mom-Judging Olympics and let our kids grow up, savoring success and failure equally. We may discover that even an “average” child is precious.

3. My children are my life.

The experience of caring for an infant alters our perspectives: changing soiled diapers, aspirating snotty nostrils, even producing life-sustaining nutrients from our bosoms. However, infancy is a temporary state—12 months to be exact. The average American woman lives approximately 85 years. The average American woman also births 2 children. Theoretically, those children achieve a certain level of independence by 18.  Even if a woman chooses to wait to conceive one child after the other is 18, less than half of her life is spent in so-called “active motherhood.” Yet many women focus all of their energy on their children. They abandon their social lives. They even put significant others on the back burner. There is no doubt that capable mothers should make personal sacrifices for their children, but part of being a role model is exemplifying what it means to be a whole person.

4. Being a mother makes me a complete woman.

I have a friend lucky enough to have found her significant other early in life, along with a career that suits her well. She’s a consummate professional, and one of the most caring people I’ve ever met in my life. And, she is completely at peace with planning her future sans children.

Gasp!

I can just imagine the confused faces and concerned body language she maneuvers in idle conversations beginning with “So when are you going to have a baby?”.  While choosing to be childless is becoming more common in the US, it’s still a societal expectation to couple and then procreate (if not at least the other way around).

Good god, how could it be that an intelligent, modern woman live a fulfilling life without birthing bundles of joy?

I suppose we could just leave it up to those intelligent, modern women to decide.



THE FINE PRINT: This post is in no way a damnation of mothers, motherhood, or children. I like most moms and most children. I even love my own. So, calmly remove the stick from your posterior if its contents enraged you.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Trial After Fire

Entryway after fire
Some say
               "trial by fire"
                                   a weary cliche
But much more vibrant
                                   in first person
The sting of the flame
                                   suffocates

But most fail to acknowledge
         the true test

             after
              the
              fire

Once all is built back up and tucked in place
the broken glass swept away
the sooty surfaces wiped clean

             then the pressure mounts
                        to be
                        okay

Then those things that don't have mass or form
                 are eaten away
                                         by flame

But one that is cold and invisible
One that licks the wounds
nobody cares to see