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


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


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