As is often the case, I sit here with good intent to write my end-of-term comments–a dry litany of repeated phrases dulled by. obligation–and find myself instead writing poetry, the stuff I would rather share with my students who already know that I care dearly about them; who know that I give damn about who they are, how they struggle and when they shine in their ragged testimonies of perfection. Nothing in my comments will ever be as new and real as my own journey to chart the nuances of my day.
I live in a small town interwoven with roads I thought I often traveled, but one street caught my eye today–the long dead-end behind Haley’s garage–and I realized something I missed in these twenty years of suburban life.
It reminded me that I need to keep looking and not give up my greater job of seeking, and so became this poem–a simple exercise in counting syllables, which I hope they read this more deeply than the comments I about to write about them.
The Street I Never Go Down
Some old cart path I have never traveled, 10
Houses plotted onto unknown earth 9
Plushed in idosyncrancy 8
I avoid out of habit 7
More than benign intent 6
Or childhood fear, 5
And so promise 4
These last breaths– 3
This dry, 2
Day of promise– 4
To live once more 5
In mysterious ways 6
Discerning shrouded secrets 7
Lurking like cats beneath porches, 8
The palpable breath behind drawn shades, 9
Somewhere on the street I never go down. 10
Fitz & Friends
at The Colonial Inn
Thursday, November 2, 10:30-12:00
The Salty Dawgs
at The Colonial Inn
Saturday, November 4, 10:30-12:00
One good cigar is better than two bad cigars, or so it seems right now. It is a beautiful and stormy night–pouring rain and howling wind, and I thought a good smoke would be a fitting end to a busy and over-booked week. As it goes, I bought a couple of cheap cigars, and neither one does what a good cigar is built to do, so the night and the occasion feels cheapened and diminished. The metaphor is not too hard to extend to any venture (or vice). You get what you pay for, and you harvest what you plant in that stubble of field we call our life.
Half the battle is in the discernment of what is good and what is bad, and the other half is battling through our myopic prejudices, our stubborn pride and insistence on being right–otherwise known as righteousness–and in our pure and blinding ignorance that coddles us in our cloud of unknowing. The irony is in how simple it is to make the next step, to take a reaper’s scythe and mow through the bullshit weeds that sprout madly in the fields of the weak (myself duly included) and make some sort of navigable cowpath to a place that is better, more enduring and less cumbersome to the a more noble and fitting pursuit of life.
As convenient as it is to say, “Just do it,” we can’t just undo what is bound to our weaker nature whose many gangly sinews weave a tough web of inertia until we are a teaming mass of shallow roots and hedgerow of flimsy twigs. We have no core from which we live. We have no sturdy limbs to prune and train in a higher canopy of life, and so we hack and strike until we are no more than a pile of flimsy faggots of deadwood. But hack and strike we must, if only to leave our previous life as the detritus of moldering compost to enrich a future soil.
The stale, tinny taste from this cheap cigar hangs on me like a flimsy coat in this raging storm. It drenches me in the fallible frame I’m hung to; it drowns me in my weaknesses and batters me and curses me to do the things I never seem to do.