My Whisperer

I am enfolding — my infernal evaporation
Into the darkness. This is nothing more than
The declension of a tired spirit: succumbing
To Dante’s path once more. The way is marked
With Virgil’s beguiling light of limited
Human wisdom. The candles dim to flickering
Shadows as I reach for the jar atop the highest shelf
Of my mind. I placed my shattered heart there
In hopes to keep it safe from the darkness –
But these cold, inky thoughts continue to flood in
Through the cracks in the walls and under
The dead-bolted doors of iron and rust.

Then, like a warm summer breeze
That playfully sends my long curled tendrils
To dancing, your whisper lifts me
Out of the sordid pit in which I tried
To find solace. Instead of rebuke and disgust,
Your hand reaches for mine pulling me close to you.
You beckon me to healing as you take
The broken fragments of my heart in your hands
And begin to piece them lovingly together.
Your words become the encasement for my
Reshaped heart until I am all but melting
Into the light of your soothing whisper.

Rain

Your condemnation of all that I am
and will become
rains down on me like
a harsh and heavy hand—I almost don’t feel it
at first, like a speckle of rain dropping onto my
cheek, your palm—open and surging—
finds its target.

Your disapproving eyes shift into focus—
a flood of words falls from your lips
as your palm forms into a fist
to deliver your strongest message to me.
I am listening but I can’t hear you
over the volume of your pain—

My heart—like wetted cement
drinks in the poison and darkens
like the starless night.
Burning and searing—
your daggered love crashes into me—

The sky bursts free
and oceans cover me dulling the sharpness
of your kind of love—the waters enfold me,
bearing me up

like a Sacrifice for all those vices I have.
Water fills my ears so full I can no
longer hear your arid words. My body,

encased in a flood of tears, can no longer
feel the blow of your anger. My pied

heart, no longer needs your cleansing.

 
 
 

 
 
 

Day’s Rain Is Done
by Aleksandr Pushkin

Day’s rain is done. The rainy mist of night
Spreads on the sky, leaden apparel wearing,
And through the pine-trees, like a ghost appearing,
The moon comes up with hidden light.
All in my soul drags me to dark surrender.
There, far away, rises the moon in splendour.
There all the air is drunk with evening heat,
There move the waters in a sumptuous heat,
And overhead the azure skies…
It is the hour. From high hills she has gone
To sea-shores flooding in the waves’ loud cries;
There, where the holy cliffs arise,
Now she sits melancholy and alone…
Alone… Before her none is weeping, fretting,
None, on his knees, is kissing her, forgetting;
Alone… To no one’s lips is she betraying
Her shoulders, her wet lips, her snow-white bosom.

No one is worthy of her heavenly love.
‘Tis true?… Alone… You weep… I do not move.

Yet if…

 
 
 

Dear Reader, 

Each of these pieces, my poem, the song, and Pushkin’s poem, have a similar sadness to them, but what I wanted to point out before I sign off is that there is hope that one day we will be renewed. Each ends with a glimmer of hope for something more — for something better. I think that’s what humanity needs — we need to see and acknowledge the pain, the darkness…the melancholic parts of our hearts we may try to hide — those are unavoidable realities in life. And they are not easy to deal with or confront, but there is something more — there is hope.

Until next time. 

the final days of senior English class

Dear Reader,

This is the last week of class before my seniors take their finals, so I wanted to do a fun unit with them as a last hurrah! What’s more fun than asking a room full of mixed company if this is a man’s world or a woman’s world? For me, not much…but then again, I’m a little strange. The students uproariously began to formulate their opinions as I calmly asked them to think first, then write, THEN talk. 🙂

After a bit of time, the students were able to articulate their thoughts by sharing them in groups and then corporately. Then I played the Godfather of Soul for them, and asked the class to decode the message behind James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

They made their postulations – some apt some asinine. Then we read several poems that further complicated the original question – that’s how I know I’m doing my job! It’s my diabolical design, my subversive scheme to get this next generation to THINK for themselves! (Good news, dear reader, I think it’s working for some of them!). After we read several poems and even some newspaper articles, I hit ‘em with Dorothy Parker! She slayed them – as expected. We read “The Waltz,” and the class was equally amused and horrified. One gentleman timidly asked, “is that really how ‘you guys’ feel?” My mouth curled into a smile as I released a sigh, “no, not always, but there is some truth to this piece. We all feel that there are times to say what we are thinking and times to hold it back, and that’s true for both genders.” That eased a little tension in the room, that is, until we read “A Telephone Call.” To which I told the boys: if you say you’re going to call, then CALL HER! The girls gave shouts and whistles, which was interrupted by a deep booming voice asking, “what if she says she will call and doesn’t?” I met him eye-to-eye and nodded. I turned my sharp attention to the girls and gave them the same vehement warning, which was followed by some laugher and cheering. Who says third period, senior English isn’t fun? Not I, dear reader, not I! They eventually came to the conclusion that life is not easy for either gender – both can be mysterious and confusing – especially when societal norms come into play. They also came to the conclusion that women didn’t have a voice for a long time in history or literature, but that they were there and definitely did make an impact. There’s always more to the story (like Helen and her fleet of launched ships, woman have started more than mere mythological wars). As Eavan Boland says in her complex poem “It’s a Woman’s World” (this is just an excerpt from the poem):

like most historic peoples
we are defined by
what we forget

and what we never will be:
star-gazers,
fire-eaters.
It’s our alibi
for all time:

as far as history goes
we were never
on the scene of the crime.

Moving on: teacher brag moment: (you’ve been warned 🙂 ) After reading some of Dorothy Parker’s poetry, I had a particularly bright young man make the connection that although Parker is satirical and hilarious, there is also a great deal of grittiness and pain hidden behind her sarcasm. My eyes lit up – he hit the nail on the head! I wasn’t going to say anything to them about the papers I wrote in undergrad because that sounds braggy and frankly, it’s boring, but I just had to in this case! I had written a paper on Dorothy Parker for my American Lit class titled: Pain Masked by Humor (I think there was a subtitle, but I cannot remember it for the life of me!). Perhaps it’s not that big of deal or it’s rather obvious, but it made my teacher-heart swell a bit to have one of my students (who I’ve taught the past four years) make an astute connection without being prompted; he’s ready for college!

This probably won’t be the last post about my seniors. I grow so attached to my students; it’s always hard to say goodbye. Today, as we watched music videos and compared the originals to their covers – we discussed how perspective can completely alter the meaning of a song. We watched a video that may or may not have had minor disturbing images – which I can neither confirm nor deny, but I will say this: one of my students yelled out: “what happens in English class, stays in English class!” HAHA! I love it – our very own set of rules a-la-Fight Club – or the Vegas mantra – we actually likened it to Marlow’s experience in Heart of Darkness – what happens on the Congo, stays on the Congo. Anyway you slice it, it made my day. And, yes, I know, I’m a huge English nerd.

Until next time,

Jaime

For your reading pleasure:

“The Waltz” — originally printed in the September 2, 1933 edition of The New Yorker.

“A Telephone Call”  

“It’s a Woman’s World” 

my view for the afternoon

Dear Reader,

The AP English tests are over! I can finally put my bottle of PeptoIMG_5950 away…until next Spring. This afternoon, I get to read letters — what can I say? I love to get mail! My AP students wrote me letters to explain how the test went and how they felt about this year. And let me tell you, these letters are so life-giving to me! Some are serious, some are playful — most are well-written 😉 which I like to think I had a hand in that.

I told you I was cluttery…my desk speaks for itself, right? I plan to clean it up, eventually.  Now that I have no more AP essays to grade, you know what I did? I assigned my other classes giant essays! HA! The pain is my pleasure I suppose. Anyway, the end of the school year is upon us, and my sentiments are bittersweet. I have truly enjoyed my teaching schedule, my students, and my curriculum this year; and it will be sad for that to come to an end. On the other hand, summer (no explanation needed, right?).

I keep listening to a certain song on repeat, and it makes my sad eyes happier I suppose. I read a poem to one of my classes that I’d like to share with you, dear reader. Sometimes all we can offer is words. This poem is just that. Before I read them the poem, I asked my students to ponder this: “suppose someone says to you, ‘I have nothing to give you — except love.’ How would you feel? Is love enough?” Some said yes, others no — I read the poem and played the Beatles for them (if they don’t hear it from me, who’s going to teach them about great music? 😉 ).

Here’s the poem:

I Am Offering this Poem
By Jimmy Santiago Baca

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

I love you,

Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
remember,

I love you.

After we read the poem, we made a list of the similes for the speaker’s love. The class discovered that the similes reflect comfort, warmth, provision, security, and safety. The speaker’s love does all of those things in just words. Perhaps having all those luxuries: “coats,” “socks,” “corn,” “a cabin,” a warm “fire” are meaningless without love. Perhaps, as the John Lennon suggested: “All you need is love.”

My favorite part of the song is the very end…when it sounds like three different songs are playing at once and then softly “she loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah” is heard as the song fades out — every time I listen to it, I just close my eyes and smile — I really love that part for one reason or another.

There’s always more to say… but this is a good place to stop for today.

Until next time,

Jaime