Tuesday, September 11, 2012


By Molly Meacham

I had never been small
until I heard how evil I am
for being a teacher. With the lie levels
rising in newspapers, emails,
interviews, announcements,
the steady flood of anti-
teacher propaganda
dissolves dignity
past patience
until I am in-
visible and
taste of

the frightening muse of room 202
is this incredible

I’ve often told students to absorb
environment and squeeze it
into writing, but I, hypocrite, cannot
check my mail without earplugs
and blinders now. There is always a top
story that burns my cheeks ashen,
and I am scattered by breath.

But there’s no headline for me
or for colleagues who’ve sold houses,
who’ve taken on loans and grey-streaked temples
to brace for the fight.

These headlines are about these politicians,
their pockets, and their pride. Articles
full of double speak and forked tongue
hissing. The mayor and the board deal students
as playing cards in stacked decks.

They know nothing of the kids themselves:
Her grammar jokes, his zombie impression. That he’s afraid his father
is never getting out of jail and his mom has breast cancer.
That she is the first in her family to go to college
and got a full ride. That he came out of the closet, and his mother is praying
for evil to cease its possession. That she reinvents the world
on the page and then stages it. These kids swirl
in cutbacks, media overload, starved affections, and poetry.
They swear and swagger and smile metal.

The fact these kids are alive and breathing knowledge
in deadly communities is more miracle
than Lazarus rising. And they do—they baptize
their papers in ink and wash drafts clean
with red. They highlight, spotlight, moonwalk. I mean,

they are teenagers…there are mad dashes through
the halls, too many tardies and dress code violations.
But they are green and sprouting: dandelions
and dahlias, ivy, wisteria, and willows.

I am a simple gardener, tilling
with words, preparing the ground—
loam, sand, silt, clay. The clay models itself
into familiarity. Into the expression
of understanding that’s unique to each child.

The board wants me to see only numbers,
to measure the kids with percentages,
to see them as payment and value-added.
But I am an English teacher.
Numbers have never been my thing.

I see that their learning is the shape of a yellow raft
on a green river. We are the river dwellers.
There is no salt in our water.

It feels wrong to hate politicians who have never met me,
but they made us feel miniscule—buzzing winged
things like gnats or mosquitoes—for being teachers.
It makes me hunger for Biblical
retribution. So I will be an insect…
in a plague of cicadas. We will be dressed as
a river of blood, a torrent of chant and noise.

There is no poem for this fight, for watching
the mild mannered lose their voices
from screaming chants, feet raw with marching.
Hands, callused for chalk, will be rubbed with new blisters
from holding signs.

If we are faceless, let us be the drought, the blight,
the salt in this freshwater city
so our students will not be nameless, faceless scores
in a city that hunts them for statistics.

We will be living the politics.
Not writing a poem.
I invite you (and ask you) to stand with me,
for them.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

"All oppression creates a state of war." Simone de Beauvoir

Sunday, June 03, 2012

We are still in the French Open, and I love anything French though it all started with Proust:

And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom , my aunt LĂ©onie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it; perhaps because I had so often seen such things in the meantime, without tasting them, on the trays in pastry-cooks' windows, that their image had dissociated itself from those Combray days to take its place among others more recent; perhaps because of those memories, so long abandoned and put out of mind, nothing now survived, everything was scattered; the shapes of things, including that of the little scallop-shell of pastry, so richly sensual under its severe, religious folds, were either obliterated or had been so long dormant as to have lost the power of expansion which would have allowed them to resume their place in my consciousness. But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unflinchingly, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.

And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. And as in the game wherein the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper which until then are without character or form, but, the moment they become wet, stretch and twist and take on colour and distinctive shape, become flowers or houses or people, solid and recognizable, so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann's park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.

from Swann's Way, Remembrance of Things Past (Vol 1)

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Demeter to Persephone by Alicia Suskin Ostriker

I watched you walking up out of that hole

All day it had been raining
in that field in Southern Italy

rain beating down making puddles in the mud
hissing down on rocks from a sky enraged

I waited and was patient
finally you emerged and were immediately soaked

you stared at me without love in your large eyes
that were filled with black sex and white powder

but this is what I expected when I embraced you
Your firm little breasts against my amplitude

Get in the car I said
and then it was spring