I do love teaching.
I mean the actual moment when a student is drawn in,
A connection made
A question forms
When the hand shoots up
Or they can’t even wait to be called on.
Or when the ideas flow
And they build on each other
When they feel the freedom of poetry
Or the elegance of a balanced equation
Pride in their work.
Some days those moments happen.
Sometimes they’re smothered in the
Chaos that is Thirteen
Their emotions swinging wide
Their family stress taking its toll
Their hormones ganging up on them
Their bodies aching from stretching bones
Feeling the weight of the world for the first time.
It’s all woven together, the good and the bad
Can’t have one without the other.
And here it is, May.
I’m longing for summer break
At least as much as the kids,
And the truth is
I’m going to miss them.
Next year will bring a new batch.
And on those days when chaos has won,
I will come back to this poem,
And remind myself why I chose this path.
Dad is delighted post-cataract surgery
He can read again,
Can see the clock.
He can drive freely again,
Go to new places, even at night.
As a child, this retired astronomer
Damaged his vision
Looking at an eclipse.
Now he can see the stars again,
Including the constellation of
Age spots that have bloomed
On his bald pate.
Not to mention all those
June 9, 2017
Despite all the pavement and visible litter,
the Los Angeles River still hosts much life.
Snowy egrets stood watch on the stones while the gulls swooped around.
In the shallows, black-necked stilts, mallards, and coot were all busy pecking and dipping for something tasty beneath the surface—
Except the cormorant, piously sunning himself,
arms outstretched like Moses.
I ventured down the steep paved banks,
wondering if the textured sides had a sincere engineering purpose.
Up close you could see some pink froth clinging to the grasses,
as if the river recently convulsed,
or more likely in LA, was just stumbling in,
still soiled and drunk from last night’s revelry.
Down at the river’s edge,
the soothing babble was louder than the traffic noise.
I crouched to catch a video and noticed
an eddy of orangey froth
with a plastic water bottle caught in it’s vortex
bobbing helpless in place.
I headed back up the steep embankment,
and passed a weathered Latino
wearing a “Hulu Casual Season 3” t-shirt.
I watched him turn off the path,
down to the riverside I just left.
He dropped his backpack
pulled out a bag
and began throwing breadcrumbs to the mallards.
Swirling clouds of ice and rock
Pulling into their own gravity
Forming Earth in the cosmos
Billions of eons ago.
Earth’s water, her rocks,
Are older than herself
Existed in another form
Before she came to be.
And I too am made of parts that
Are older than I.
These molecules of carbon and water
That form my being
Existed before I did.
Will exist still when I am gone.
I will ride on the air,
Wash down in the rain.
Soak into the soil
Home to worms,
Stash for the squirrels’ acorns
Feel roots nudge through me.
Rising through stem and leaf,
Carried off by a bee
Distilled into honey
How long before those molecules That used to be me are
Perhaps some already are.
Perhaps some never will be.
I am ancient and new.
I am infinite.
I came into her life to keep her calm and grounded, especially for her travels, but also for home. Our relationship was intermittent at first, she only using me occasionally, preferring my thicker sister she needed at work. But we would meet in her home office, when she had been sitting long hours at the computer and needed to break from that digital world. She could hear herself again when I was there, a sounding board for feet, hands, knees, and forehead. I have felt her grip, her sweat, the tremor of her muscles. I gave her the courage to venture out.
I went with her to New York City, stretching out beside a Brooklyn fire fighter who was excited to share his practice. I drove with her through the Alleghenies and supported her efforts to calm a chapter of sorority girls. I’ve gone to beach houses up and down the east coast, providing a quiet balance, a sanctuary from too much family togetherness. She has used me and neglected me, leaving me helplessly covered in cat hair.
Recently I flew with her on a plane to California. She laid herself over me and I felt the jumbled energy in her mind, hope and doubt in an awkward, rhythmless dance. She laid me in the dust of a dozen studios and she searched for her tribe in this new territory. She used me to ground her writing at the makeshift standing desk, trying to stay connected to her own energy while she wrote about violence and evil.
And now she has unrolled me in the desert, grinding sand into me as she reached for the brilliant tangerine sunset. I know it was my presence that gave her the cool curiosity to watch a giant spider head out for the evening after a day in his desert grass web. Ancient energy pulled up from deep beneath me, passing right through me and into her feet, shooting through her fingers into the deepening blue. Together we create an antenna, sending and receiving energy in the universe.
June 5, 2017
It’s dusk on my front porch,
a cool evening
still at the last of Spring.
The red maples are turning green.
The pear blossoms have given way to leaves.
The primroses are thinning as
the four o’clocks rise up around them.
The swallows cheerfully chirp as they swoop around,
eating hopefully most of the mosquitos.
They settle into the trees and the sun fades,
making quite a racket
as they tell each other about their days.
The lullaby of the crickets rises up from the ground.
The birds settle in for the night.
The peepers croak in a bass line.
Every now and then,
the traffic noise quiets,
and I imagine
I am in a deep forest,
as it was in centuries past,
before we paved so much of it.
I remember standing under the blossoming crabapple tree and shaking the branches, making warm pink snow.
I remember putting on our flowiest dress-ups and twirling in the wind.
I remember playing in the river at the curbside in the summer rain.
I remember the bells of the ice cream truck.
I remember making a boat out of our jungle gym, sailing down a river, canoeing over to the maple tree.
I remember blackberries, jam and pie and ice cream.
I remember shattering rocks on the sidewalk to see their secret inner crystals.
I remember hearing my mother play the piano as I tried to fall asleep, Für Elise, one of my favorite in her repertoire.
I remember the taste of her spaghetti, and the Christmas gumdrop bread.
I remember standing in a field in the middle of the night with my father, looking through binoculars at Haley’s Comet.
I remember the feel of a jelly fish sting.
I remember the sting of Old Bay in my fingers after picking crabs.
I remember the warmth of my Love beside me in bed at night, the sound of his breathing.
I remember the smell of babies’ hair, the happy gurgles, and the warmth of them on my skin.
I remember seeing a big grizzly bear walk down the center aisle of an outdoor church service in Yosemite. I was so grateful to be on a big boulder.
I remember that icy water in the mountains, and seeing my first streakers – really just skinny-dipping hikers, but it was the seventies.
I remember tearful laughter with my brother over Saturday Night Live.
I remember watching my other brother dance, and later my own children, feeling their joy as their young bodies were learning to really speak.
I remember my front porch, the mimosas and the four o’clocks, the peeling wicker furniture and the squeak of the swing…
I really must thank Daniel Ladinsky for his delightful rendering of the works of Hafiz, keeping the modern reader in mind as he translates. In his collection, “A Year With Hafiz” I recently took comfort in the January 23rd entry:
Word Spreads About Good Cooking
The movements of our hands help build the
We add to the universe by our efforts.
Whatever we do, we should never think it is irrelevant;
whatever we do, we should not conclude it
is so important either. Between those two
poles find your balance; between those two
regions your talents will bloom.
Word spreads about good cooking. Become
that, an exquisite meal for us.
The alchemy stone is waiting to retire and
confess… something in us is its power.
My four o’clocks shed blossoms and seeds all over my porch
But they are vibrant and bountiful
I can’t uproot the thriving, despite my husband’s concerns.
I like to watch the bees busy among them,
And sometimes at sunset, the elusive sphinx moth
But the seeds are uncomfortable on bare feet,
Which are often on my porch.
I wanted a broom to leave on the porch,
A daily zen chore of clearing and collecting
I sent my husband to the store for a straw broom
Simple, elegant, efficient.
I didn’t realize the variety he’d be face with alone.
He chose one labeled for outdoor use.
Black, plastic, frugal.
A disappointment too superficial for complaint
The motives for my request not clearly conveyed.
My un-zen attachment to a broom.
I apologized to some visiting bare feet,
The broom couldn’t live on the porch and was not used so much
The explanation of my superficial dilemma was met with understanding
Rather than judgment.
She had a rarely used straw broom in her garage
She’d happily trade for the frugal broom.
A broom exchange has been arranged with
A witch after my own heart.
Together we will fly
Practical and elegant
The crickets lead my evening hymns
The clock keeps rhythm
The lovely air conditioner hums along
My keystrokes a soft staccato
A deep breath , belly rising
The soft chair beneath me.
I am Loved.
My family is well.