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
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.
There is seldom a red-carpet celebration when a book of poetry is released, so I will keep this a quiet and humble affair. My newest book of poetry, “Crows & Swallows” is now on iBooks, so fresh you can almost smell the ink. My business model is unchanged: It is a free download:) I’ll reap whatever it is poets reap somewhere down the road. Share if you can…A nice review on the store won’t hurt either…
I wonder if God is testing me, giving
Me some affable warning
Or, perhaps, a more
Stern rebuke, replaying
A foolish mistake,
Rehashing and reminding me
Of a harsher possibility.
It is only a small 10 mm wrench tightening
A loose bolt on the throttle body,
slipping through the same gap
Between the carburetor float
And the cylinder head
And then leaning almost impossibly
Against the same tread
On the rear wheel.
It is enough to give me pause–
Enough to make me rethink,
Reflect and redo…
I am overtaken by
An almost visceral response
And reach for a 3/8ths inch wrench
With a ratcheting head.
It fits snugly and tightens smoothly.
“Damn English,” I mutter
And their stubborn recreation
of our same God.
Writing a Metacognition
Know Thyself… Explore, Assess, Reflect & Rethink
If we don’t learn from what we do, we learn little of real value. If we don’t make the time to explore, reflect and rethink our ways of doing things we will never grow, evolve and reach our greatest potential or tap into the possibilities in our lives. Writing metacognition’s is our way to explore our experiences as students and teachers, and then to honestly assess our strengths and weaknesses, to willfully and wisely reflect on what we did—and did not—do, and to rethink how to move forward in a positive and more enlightened way towards a better and more applicable and capable future.
There are many sides to every experience, so when I ask you to “explore” an experience and write a metacognition, I am not looking for a simple summary of what you did. I expect you to write like you are walking the rocky and jumbled coastline of what you just went through. Recount and relive your experience as a stream of deliberate, dreamlike consciousness. This recounting and reliving can be as scrambled and unkempt as your emotions and memories; there is no “Fitz Rubric” to follow; there are no specific“details” to the assignment—there is only you and your own heart that you can follow with your own iconoclastic bent, will and resolve. You do not have to worry about being understood by your reader. You are only trying to understand and know yourself.
When you assess, there is no way around the need for a bit of cold and reptilian critique. Looking with clear eyes upon yourself is a hell of a hard task, but it is part and parcel of a thinking person’s package. Sure enough, the assignment might be so flawed as to be undoable, but that is, I hope, fairly rare. More likely the great flaw (or the great promise) starts with you, your attitude, and your way of tackling the work. And it ends with you. Pull out a scale and a measuring tape and tally what you produced; weigh it against the scale of time you stole from your life to complete the work, and ask yourself: do you feel like saying, “Check it out,” or do you feel like sighing, “Chuck it out.” To assess is to figure that out.
Once “that” is figured out, your head should kick into full reflection mode. A reflection scours the deeper trenches for whatever insights can be culled from the briny mud of experience. Pull these thoughts and splay them on the deck as they come, for they are all gifts from the sea of the mind, and their true value can be discerned later and kept or cast as wanted or needed. There is no such thing as unwanted catch in a reflection.
If you are unwilling to rethink your actions you are, to use an old adage, condemned to repeat that action. By rethinking approaches you can retool the machine of your being, and in that sense you are continually reborn as a better you. You make sense of yourself and are now clad in a stronger armor with a shield, pike and sword better suited to turn the tide and win the day in any future battle.
Sometimes a metacognition ends up as a disjointed ramble of thoughts and feels (and maybe is) a jumbled expurgation of contradicting thoughts. But that is fine. It is what it is…. Other times, it may flow together so cleanly and fluidly that it comes out as a pure and unified essay that reeks of the nuanced wisdom and strong wine of distilled thought, which is just as fine, yet infinitely more rewarding, more refreshing, and more fit to be shared—if that is the bent of your indefatigable genius.
Do this. Give a damn and figure yourself out.
Be that genius…