Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Geographical Equation

The theme for Poetry Thursdayis to use mathematical language to create a poem...potentially in the form of a proof. I have suffered from severe math anxiety since the sixth grade which continued until I became an English major and could no long be bothered with anything mathematical. However, just these past few months, I've had to start teaching math (gasp!). Thankfully a professor from a local college is working with our staff and I keep saying, "Why didn't anyone show it to me this way?"

I may be starting a journey of learning to love math.

My poem this week is a pretty rough draft, but I've enjoyed playing around with math words. It's a prompt that came at a perfect time.

Geographical Equation

Let x equal a compass
spinning like a whirligig—
the faithfulness of north
always in your palm.

Let this be the point
that tethers you to the globe--
as your seesaw heart
creaks up and down.

You may zigzag the
latitude and longitude
always looking to
the next shoulder of land
or elbowed cove,
craters like the inside
of your knees

walking the circumference
of the world will only be
the beginning of infinity

the pebbles you gather
from every continent
to rest in your pocket

keeping your fingertip
on home.


Monday, January 29, 2007

AIDS Awareness

Friday morning, after a long week
of missed snow, houses guests and
a deep, deep cold
we had morning assembly
with just the 5th to 8th graders--
a mind-numbing power point
in non-kid friendly language
to educate them on AIDS
“transmission is from blood to blood
contact, breast milk, and anal, oral
or vaginal sex” the nurse droned.

I saw the mouths of 6th grade boys
drop to their knees.

At the end, there were no questions
and I could only assume that either:
they had no clue what she was talking about, or
the questions would come later.

They were barely done copying homework
when Yasmin raised her hand.
“So…what’s oral, anal and vaginal sex?”
She was paying attention.

This catapulted us
into the day with a jolt
where I was suddenly covering
a curriculum ranging from
tampons to farm animals
(what happens if you have sex
with a person who had sex
with an animal? one ten year old asked)

There are some questions you are never prepared for.

But this is the territory
of minds trying to make sense
from the daily craziness of the world
dragging these uprooted questions
like radishes
out into the yellow light.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

This is What Democracy Looks Like...

Or it's one way that it looks.

After a long week, I very nearly didn't go to DC yesterday for the march against the war. But it seemed a small thing to do considering. Here's some of the sights I saw. We especially enjoyed the band: saxophone, clarinet, harmonica, some drums and...a frying pan! Wish I could have captured the audio too.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Echo

This week's Poetry Thursday challenge was to use the line from another Poetry Thursday participant. I chose a line from L. Monique, "there is certain holiness in repetition" @ from The Swallow Project: a guide to consuming obsessions

(I have just switched from using a PC to a Mac and am having trouble with hyperlinks. Can anyone help?)


there is certain holiness in repetition—

not just the liturgy circling a year
or the bent prayers laid
on new coffins

not just the constancy
of multiplication

or four legs
on a chair

the tides marking
each hour in shattered shells

toenails growing

these patterns, we remember

mark them in tallies
on the muscular wall
of our heart

count them like promises

this is what we live for


Monday, January 15, 2007

The Breath

This poem is of course inspired by William Carlos Williams' poem "The Red Wheelbarrow". However, the class across the hall from me just wrote imitation poems with topics like "so much depends on a chicken box" and "so much depends on the ketchup" which had me thinking of topics. While at yoga the other night, I decided so much depends upon the breath. Here's my contribution to a Williams imitation.

The Breath

so much depends
the breath

through a stiff

to lean
a bony

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Poetry Thursday: The Dead Line

Today’s Poetry Thursday topic had to do with clichés. I was not feeling inspired until this afternoon in class when I heard Daya telling one of her group members that they had to work hard on their Science project so they could meet the Wednesday deadline. “Dead?” Teya said, aghast. “You shouldn’t talk like that!” Daya tried to explain that it was a due date, but Teya wasn’t catching on. I started thinking about a dead line. It’s not a cliché, but it is interesting to think about the word derivation. Here’s my playful attempt at a poem.

The Dead Line

Lying jagged on the floor
panting for a last breath,
banished from the textbook
and its home between ray and segment

Who killed the line?

Vicious scissors
tasting the iron power of
breaking infinity?

Maybe it was the circle or curly-q
wishing for the length of an endless sidewalk
maybe the perpendicular line decapitated it
in a frazzled rush, maybe it was vehicular
manslaughter on the daily commute

And what do we do now?

A whole universe left with
even the chairs creak low
on saggy knees
light spines bow
like pinky
snail shells.

This avalanche of form—

the silence
as we press our cheeks
to the fading tile floor.


Monday, January 08, 2007

From Greensboro

The twins stopped by to say hello and happy new year
and tell about Lawanna, who is popular, and Lawanda,
who is not and about the knife Lawanda brought to school
and the ten days of suspension and all the books
they haven’t been reading ‘cause they do worksheets instead.

I shake my head and say, “You KNOW better.
Don’t ever take a knife to school, do you know what could
happen?” I scold and fuss, purse my lips
imagine their story a sharp documentary—
compelling characters and one bad choice.

They know, they know, they know it was a bad idea
for Lawanda to hold it for Lawanna who was just going
to show it to some other girl and scare her. Of course they know
but they are newly thirteen
they could balance the world on the tip of a finger
their hearts purple and brave
and this, their only protection.

There is only today
bright and strong
without tomorrow.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Land of Cheese

I have just returned from a trip to Minneapolis to visit my friend K. We took a little roadtrip to Madison, Wisconsin where I was able to experience the passion for cheese in little roadside stops. I am passionate for cheese myself so I really appreciated these outposts. I also witnessed the phenomenon of indoor waterslides. We passed through Wisconsin Dells, which seemed to be a Las Vegas for families, with water slides rather than casinos. There was an actual water slide which looped outside the resort and then back inside again. These wonders of the midwest that I never knew. Tomorrow I return to my teaching life. I am wistful that these vacation days are so quickly over.


Monday, January 01, 2007

End of Year Tally

“As of last night, 274 people had died by homicide in Baltimore…”
- The Baltimore Sun, January 1, 2007

We hover in the upper 200’s
with the yearly index published of the dead
more men than women
more black than white
42 victims per 100,000

We watch the news--the crusty blood,
the yellow tape, the handguns
we can hardly crane our necks
to the other side of the world
where the bodies pile up
we can hardly change the compass
of our thoughts
when the cousins and uncles
are shooting and shot out
when the children are tight-fisting the faded obituaries

We work to make a difference
they shout from the trenches
What we’re doing, isn’t working
and we don’t know what to do

We want to throw up our hands,
run far away, bury our heads
in nostalgia

There is only tomorrow
steel and permanent

We hardly dare
to hope