Darkness Among The Dogwood

 

Mourning dove on a front porch,
Says with her eyes,
Her implacable, light-ringed eyes,

Yes, I made a mess
Building this nest.
But
The pangs were upon me, and

My nest-mess is the herald
Of Easter,
Of passion and pain.
In a corner of the cornice,
I hide my life,
Against the roaring of the foe,
Who stalks like a blight,
A darkness among dogwood,
A hatred complete.

This piercing is a deep breath
Inhaled for the victory shout.

I am the covering;
I will die for life.

~

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December Into January And Yoga Pants

December into January,
From Advent to after,
Build-up to come-down,
Weighty to wayward,
And it’s raining;
The calendar has grown soggy,
Clumped into a fibrous wad,
Windblown and
Come to rest against
The dripping screen on a winter back porch.
Days don’t have names in the earliest moments
Of a new year. The year only knows it’s new
Because of the let-down after the feast,
When all it can contemplate is
Digestion, and maybe
A yard-sale in . . . March, when the
Day-names come back.
Meanwhile, I’ll put on my Christmas-new,
Cornflower blue
Yoga pants and ride on
Last year’s
Muscle memory to keep my heels together
Toes tippied knees back
Shoulders down hips tucked
Belly button in lungs respiring
Arm up high balanced at the barre,
Pulsing low to the downbeat of
Havana.

New York, Day Four: Bigger Things

Ichabod’s woods are indeed
Haunted.
He was right, though ridiculous,
To jump at every eddy.
Haints and witches abandon a
Gorse-grown stoney field
And melt back in to old, old
Woods,
To titter at our cluelessness.
On a wet stone we stand,
Once a top step.
Who stood on that stone,
Home and
Relieved at road’s end?
The almost-home stone.
The Woman’s respite stone,
Work half done, her eyes
Drank in the pond downhill,
Thistles and thorns and damp.
She saw the bigger things.

Teacher, What Would You Rather Be?

What metaphors do you think of to illustrate a teacher’s job? I recently came to see my teacher-self as a doorkeeper.

A doorkeeper gives entrance, opens doors, to what lies inside. What lies inside is desirable, even splendid, enough that there is a door in front of it. All splendid objects lie behind doors. One does not wander in and handle a relic like produce at an open market. There’s a door. And there’s a keeper.

Students then are knockers. As such they must themselves knock and walk through the door. Whether they know to value what’s inside or not, they have to summon the courage to knock and the resolve to walk in and take up the values of those already inside. The keeper does not do any of this for them. Perhaps the keeper models by her very presence at the door the abiding preciousness of what is inside. But the keeper only opens. And then perhaps takes the knocker’s hand and says, “Look!” 

Maybe a doorkeeper does a little more than this. There is the word ‘overqualified,’ and perhaps an experienced teacher might be called overqualified to be a mere doorkeeper. But who better than a master of the treasures inside could so deftly make a door attractive? Who better than a friend of the owner could convince busy people, young or old, to pause and consider that what’s inside is worth their time? 

Have you ever made a list of desirable attributes in a doorkeeper? I haven’t. If I were hiring a doorkeeper, what adjectives would I look for? Alert. Eager. Sensitive. Unprejudiced. Listening. Glad. Strong. Passionate. Prompt. Expert. Active.  And attributes I would avoid in a doorkeeper? Pushy. Selective. Wheedling. Bribable. Arrogant. Lazy. Nonchalant. Unaware that though he is a keeper of this particular door, he is a knocker himself at many others. If I am applying to be a doorkeeper, this list is an interesting self-analysis. And if I want to be a teacher, a good teacher, then this list is a thought-provoking twist on the usual items on a resumé. *As an English teacher, I cannot help picturing, and laughing at, the bawdy, hungover doorkeeper in Macbeth 🙂 

This morning, I ran across this verse, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” Psalm 84: 10.

 I would rather be a doorkeeper. 

Discussion Questions: (I would love to hear your thoughts!)

How, or would, you tweak this metaphor for elementary, middle, high school, college, or adult students? Special needs students?

As phrased above, the doorkeeper gives entrance, that is, the doorkeeper does not block entrance or select who enters. The job is opening, not guarding. Do you agree? Disagree?

Ponder the phrase from above: ‘ . . .and take up the values of those already inside.’ What are some of those universal values? Specific values? Unifying values?

What attributes would you add to the lists of desirable and undesirable doorkeeper qualities?

Explore the idea that every doorkeeper is also a knocker.

How broadly can this metaphor be stretched? Could it apply to anything from children’s Sunday school to workplace meetings to lectures and even to instructional writing?

Is a doorkeeper still necessary in this day of ‘everything at our fingertips’ internet access? If so, what exactly does a doorkeeper do that the knocker can’t do on his or her own?

Is there really a door? If so, what constitutes the door? How does this idea of a door resonate in our current era?

If I Understood You Correctly

Sister-girl, what will you find there,
In the church of you?
Our first dishwasher was army duffel
Green,
Gummed with years of generic
Tomato sauce,
And offered the panoply of options including
On and Off.
It sort of cleaned the dishes, but

You get what you pay for.

Fingers in the medium do not
Bleed a life price.
Ply though they will, fingers
Can only cry out in wordless,
Flexed
Extension for redemption.

Their cry is true as
The pink sky over the
Catholic church in
January,
That morning
It was seven degrees,
With birds.

I do not trust in my fingers;
They are dead.
But their offspring
Breathes
The promise of salvation.
~

(In response to an article by Rebecca Gayle Howell titled “The Lexington Cure” published in Oxford American magazine, Winter 2017)

A Teacher’s Reward (And A First Attempt At Rap)

Wearing my Madewells
Trying to stay well,
I know I’m paid well;
These kids behave well.
I make their brains swell,
That’s what their grades tell.

But that’s not all,
Sweet babies hearts are tall.

In their faces
A world of patience,
And expectation.
I’ll sit beside them,
Point, and guide them,
“That’s where we’re going.
Fast or slowing,
I’m going with you,
Make sure you get through.”

But that’s not all,
Sweet babies, you won’t fall!

Think all you’re learning,
As earth is turning,
And every sunrise
Broadens your eyes,
Now you can say that
North is that way,
You did not know that
Yesterday.

And that’s not all.
Keep going, that’s not all.

You don’t believe me,
But I’m here already.
In tomorrow
There is a hollow,
A seat with your name,
A need for your flame.
You will be perfect!
No one else fits it;

World’s not right ’til you’re in it.