Tuesday Teacher Fantasy

Fantastic thinking is in order this thundery, rainy, hail-ish, Tuesday afternoon. You know, the kind of thinking you do when you sit around building blocks with a little kid (or several) and talk about how great it would be if you could eat only cake (or ice cream, or froot loops) all the time, for breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner. Or that summer lasted for ten months and school only lasted for two. And, “wouldn’t it be the best thing?”

“I’d have chocolate every day.”

“No way. I’d have a different kind at every meal and I would never, in a million years, get bored.”

“Oh, I know! I will ALWAYS get the corner piece with the extra icing. Oh, yeah.”

Oh, yeah. It would be the best thing.

books...

books…

Today, I think, the best thing would be, once a week to pack my reusable grocery bag the night before with a couple of the books I’ve got going on at the moment; I’d grin in anticipation of the coming day. Load the coffee maker and fixin’s carefully in a separate bag. I get to school around 6:30, just like always, and I hang an appealing, artful sign on the door that says READING DAY! I grab a pillow from the reading corner and arrange it near my desk, a kind of cozy cubby there in the corner under my “Fan Club” sign and photos and love notes from former students. I’d set my books for the day next to the pillow to wait, while I set up and start the coffee.

By 6:45 I am settled on the floor with the coffee maker bubbling away comfortably on the other side of the room. Picking up the first book in the stack, I slide my finger behind the bookmark holding my place and fold the book open. I graze slowly among the words as the sun comes up behind the mountains east of campus.

Eventually, students begin to slip into the room. Because it’s READING DAY, they already know to mumble a good morning. Maybe some of them pour a cup of joe with the tiniest of splash and swirl. Maybe not. First hour students would be so lucky! They could swing by Starbucks on their way to school and get something extra special and it would still be hot, perfect, creamy coffee / tea / chai / chocolate. We’ve a routine on READING DAY! one long-established and cherished of muttered greetings and the shush shush of pages turning.

There is no studying and no one tries to. There is no last minute rush to homework, and I don’t have to check. We each have our space of floor, desk, or wall, our cushion and the book we are working on. Some of use ear buds, and some of us don’t. No devices are opened by anyone; everyone is reading an old-fashioned, paper, analog, book of their choice.

For forty-eight minutes, there are no phones, tweets, whatsapp, instagram, texts messages, emails, parents, principals, or teachers. Just twenty-five or so souls breathing across ink spilled in delightful patterns that dance across paper in story form. Our breath steams, filling the room with the vaporous forms of places and people, near and far, known and unknown, real and imagined.

The building’s bells do their thing, and students slip away reluctantly to physics, philosophy, or some other part of the curriculum, and another group of students slips in. Later, for a couple of hours I’m alone, and I refresh the coffee maker before I return to my quiet corner, where I’ve started the second book in my stack for the day.

Just as I start to feel a little restless and maybe even lonesome, the last group of the day cracks the door open and enters to complete the ritual for the week. They settle to read, until the sound of a waiting line of cars starts to ooze beneath the door, and the rattle and crash of the younger grades in the hallways begins to shiver our air. We all get a little wiggly, and maybe there are a few people talking quietly, but some stay focused until the absolute last gasp before the last bell rings to free us for the day. Students fold their books closed like hands suspended in prayer around a bookmark, before they put cushions back in their place and shoulder backpacks and book bags to make their way home.

And wouldn’t it be the best thing? Oh, yeah.

~LD

The Rancher

We used to see vinegaroons sometimes out in West Texas. All but harmless, the one I remember was 4 inches long and terrifying. If I didn't scream, I assure that I felt like I did.  Photo taken from scorpion-forum.com

We used to see vinegaroons sometimes out in West Texas. All but harmless, the one I remember was 4 inches long and terrifying. If I didn’t scream, I assure that I felt like I did. Photo taken from scorpion-forum.com

Trekking out
in a jagged desert sunrise
and at sunset —
fiery disc hacking its way
out of night and back in again.
Dogs at his heels,
checking feed and water,
recently calved cows
and their young;
driving fence-lines —
eagle-eyed for breaches,
coyote spoor,
and unexpected predators.
Noting the occasional wonder,
maybe a star-cactus
out of place,
an arrowhead,
a pictograph,
a tarantula,
a vinegaroon.

This is NOT "the" hat. But I added it for effect. From antiques.about.com

This is NOT “the” hat, but it was John Wayne’s hat. Close enough. ‘-) From antiques.about.com

I imagine his days,
and a light gray
felt showdown hat
comes to mind —
sweat-stain continents
mapped around the
brim and leather band –
places he dreamed up
under long rays of desolate heat,
stories unspoken,
gone now, along with other fictions.

~LD

The Last Delicious Bite — Thoughts on NaPoWriMo now that it’s over.

This scribbler's notebook and pen.

This scribbler’s notebook and pen.

And so poetry month ended, not with a bang but a whimper (at least at my house). I didn’t get the final two poems written, having intended to get two more up yesterday evening, but the siren song of my pillow won the night. Today, a day out of the classroom in celebration of International Labor Day, I spent alternating between student essays and David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Obviously, I made more progress on the novel than on the student essays. It’s been many years since it took me more than two weeks to grade a set of student essays, though this round looks like it may break all heretofore standing records. After two weeks, I’m merely halfway through. But I didn’t stop in to share my woes about my current student writers. (Or maybe these woes are more about me; anyway.)

In fact, this pit stop on the way to the asparagus “florentine” and salmon filet waiting in the kitchen is to close out NaPoWriMo. Honestly, I am sad to see it go. I looked forward to reading the prompt each day with my early morning coffee, and though each day I wished I could have had the prompt the night before, the prompt dutifully percolated away in my mind after breakfast while I milled around in students’ goings on, and the day’s news, and taking out the trash, and going to dance class, and all the quotidian details.

On the other hand, NaPoWriMo has been one of those guests that after thirty straight days, really could have packed it in a week earlier and been afforded a larger space for longing in my heart. The challenge of coming up with a new (albeit often bad to mediocre) set of semi-poetic looking / sounding words and phrases to post grew to be nearly tedious. Rather (I imagine) like trying to cook for guests every single day when you aren’t a chef. Sometimes, you just order take out and call it good. So I missed two days all together, and recycled two other days. Twenty-six out of thirty poems ain’t too shabby for a self-proclaimed essay scribbler.

The challenge did jerk my imagination out of routine and jangle words and syntax around on my tongue in ways that might not have happened for any other occasion. I will play again next time, though I might not cleave so closely to the prompts.

The best part of NaPoWriMo was reading the participants’ pieces each day. Early on, I had trouble getting to sleep before one or two in the morning because I couldn’t seem to pull myself out of the whorl of all their lovely, troubling, powerful words. What a wonderful reason to stay up late!

So, I won’t be around everyday. Once a week of me is more than anyone should have to tolerate. Besides, you also have other things to do and think. I thank you for all your comments and well-wishes and reading over these thirty days; I got some thoughtful feedback that was both helpful and inspiring. I return now to my weekly (ish) posting format with full faith that the exercise of NaPoWriMo has loosened up my tongue and brain and pen. ‘Till next week, then! ~LD

Dressed in Night

I clacked the zippo shut
Against the night
Salty scent of rosinol lingering
and lifted my feet to the desktop
flicking up the brim of my feathered navy fedora
and leaning back in the boss’s leather;
I watched grey smoke ribbons rising
Backlit by city lights

~LD

* * *

About yesterday. FAIL. Going back to work after 16 days of vacation, plus a structured structure was more than I could take. I will try to pick up April 8’s ottava rima this weekend, but no promises.

As for today, well, I spent the whole day (between teaching and you know, work) winding up a tale of the gal with gams walking through the office door and not knowing what to do with a gal gumshoe, but honestly, this was the only part that didn’t seem utterly contrived. So, here you have, LD’s version of “noir.”

See you tomorrow!
~LD

Letter Home — prose part 1: A Rainy Morning

Every weekday morning around 6:10 or so, I open my front gate and hand my things to José, my regular taxi driver for the past four years.  The independent, headstrong part of me still finds his insistence on walking my bags the five measly feet from the gate to the car annoying and somewhat insulting.  I pass him my bags with a “Buen día, José,”  in any case — reminding myself that his insistence is more about his culture than it is about any weakness, real or perceived, of mine —  and lock up while he loads the car with my lunch bag and messenger bag overburdened with the laptop and the student papers or administrative paperwork I brought home the previous workday.

I fold myself into the front passenger’s seat and buckle up. The morning is dark, that darkest moment just before the sun comes up behind the backs of the mountains all around, surprising them from their slumber. As we begin the twelve-minute drive toward the colegio, I look up to and count a remarkable number of stars for a city sky. Lately, what I assume to be Mars has loomed large, sharp and bright near the ragged, mountainous, eastern horizon.

José’s kids returned to classes nearly a full week after my students did, and he tells me of their various adventures. Their first day of classes, it rained, a frog-strangler that came just as José was dropping me off that lasted until right before the first bell rang an hour or so later.   I stood in the hallway outside my classroom with the yearbook camera trying to capture the sheets of rain in the floodlights above the campus quad, while across town, José’s three kids offered to walk the last blocks to school because the line of cars was impossibly long. He made them stay in the car, and told me that he told them that being late on the first day wouldn’t be that big a deal, especially not in the rain.

After giving up my feeble photographic efforts, I walked down the hallway to the teachers’ room and made myself a cup of coffee, and returned to the open-air hallway to sip liquid wakefulness and absorb the rain with my senses.  Later that day, I knew, when the rain had run out of the clouds, the sun would turn dampness into smothering humidity, but in that moment, with the sun barely peeking through the clouds over my shoulder, it was cool and there was time in the Chihuahuan desert morning to think, to feel and to breathe safe in the embrace of the Sierra Madre.  I would deal with the heat when it came, and marvel in the sketch of my shadow on the damp sidewalk as I found myself home again, wishing we could have a little more rain. ~LD

from EL DESIERTO NO ES PARA COBARDES
by Carlos Reyes Avila

“En el desierto todo tiene el mismo nombre
Díos y el diablo viven juntos
y andan de puntillas correteándose las sombras…

…vivimos demasiado cerca de dios y del diablo
hay que echar solo un ojo a la laguna
para ver la forma en que se dibuja
tu sombra sobre la arena…”

http://www.artecomunicarte.com/ObraDatosPAD3_L.php?Obr=16

from The Desert Isn’t for Cowards
rough translation (by me)

In the desert everything has the same name
God and the devil live together
And walk on tiptoe harassing the shade…

…We live too close to god and the devil
Just take one look at the Laguna
To see the way your shadow
Is sketched on the sand…

(Many thanks to Julio M. for the reminder about this poem, and the inspiration it brought today.)

Letter Home — a poem

my tree

first flowering after the big freeze of 2011 — this tree is now less than half its original size, but flowering again. Anyone know what kind of tree it might be?

The workaday world winds its way in wonder,
wilty-eyed workers drive on
Under whistling stars and winking moon

my inheritance 2012

Taken from the roof into the Mike and Amanda’s back patio…this sun is hanging in my dining room now, sans duckie. =*(

Fine, just fine
The way the sun comes up
Behind the backs of the mountains
Who roll back over and return to dream oblivion
They’ll never know that there was anything to miss

In full sun, the dusty haze of autumn
Begins to collect in the valleys
‘tween here and the ancient hills
behind the steam rising from my coffee mug

Grinding away at stones
We meet and greet
Smile and nod,
We understand and sympathize
Adolescent voices all a-clamor
Adolescent bodies reflect against
each other all unknowing
Like electrons and heat mirages

All summer’s sins sink satisfied against
cliffs’ skin, before the winds sweep in
Brush of winter chill hovers near
Cooler days to come
Will clear the dust from the air
Leaving the day to day
As it always was

the rainy season

All three of these photos are mine, and I accept all blame. =)

The workaday world winding its way in wonder,
wilty-eyed workers driving on
Under whistling stars and winking moon.

~LD