Folded Hands Unfolding Hopes

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Fill me with Your love
That I may see
With Your eyes.
Give me Your hope
That I may salve
Their anguished hearts.
Saturate my thoughts
With sweet mercies anew
Each glittering day
That I might learn to see
The truth behind
My faults and fears.
Move me to compassion!
Please wash me
In Your empathy
That my innocence
May be marred
In purposeful grief
For those in pain.
Cover me in Your grace
That I might walk with
Dignity and poise — dressed
In Your love’s perfected
Adornments — unashamed
And glowing in the majesty
Of Your holiness.

Poetic Tendencies in Paragraphed Pondering

half clockThe sleepiness of today is marked by my affinity to stare placidly at nothing in particular—including but not limited to the computer screen, my soft black boots, the whited walls of my inferiority, and the hopeless wonder of my future. Life becomes a series of musts and nevers—a pendulum of yes and no. The ticking of my clock sways with each heaving sigh. A spatula in the road forked by life’s quizzical infinities—it’s never as simple as the compass pointing due north toward the shredded wheat that we are told never to eat. So, my eyes look to the sun marring the horizon line of my heart. The glow of its wonder leaves my mind to turn over your words again and again—in a Ferris wheel of possibilities—life’s sweet stomach-churning, butterflied mess that I never want to tidy up. Instead, I let it clutter the surfaces of my heart and mind, which arguably are one in the same. The mind, the center of a man or woman, is the lodging of both logic and love; there is time and space enough for each to make its residencies permanent. So, I let the slicing pendulum slow its whetted pace to a dull passing. The austere dichotomies of monochromatic love engender the maladies of my conundrum’d heart. Black. White. Tis not so simple, for I “doth protest too much” as Gertrude insists is annoying, and I tend to agree with the good woman. But still…as Hamlet reassures his mother, “she’ll keep her word.” And so, I do—I keep my word locked away in life’s endless timepiece where there is plenty of space. There is room enough for variants of grey in the black and white world of my sleepy youth. There is room enough for a clock that no longer ticks or tocks. There is room enough for reason and passion. There is room enough—

 
 
 

Words Like Daggers

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Sticks and stones
Thrown into hope’s
Dwindling fire —
My broken heart!
Scattered tipis
Of bones and ash
Hurling love’s insult
To my added injury —
The sharpness
Of your envenomed
Affection
And your words —
Like pointed daggers —
Bleed the fire
From my lips
Dripping with sin.
Spread the compost
On piety’s
Dying embers,
And watch it
Blossom into
Violence.

I Am That I Am.

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I am Mara.
I am the bitterness you taste
In each sip of your morning
Coffee.

I am Rahab.
I am the lust burning in your eyes.
I am the harlot of disquieted imaginings.
I give and you take. You give
And I crawl into my dreams.

I am Sarah.
I am unbelief. I am mistrust.
I am the joy leaving your lips
In your sweet, soft laughter.

I am Mary.
I am the sainted wonder
of His fire. I am the bearer
of life and splendor.

I am Martha.
I am the dishrag hanging
From the hooks of your heart.
I clean. I scrub as you keep tracking
Mud into the waxed floors of my mind.

I am beauty —
I am hate —
I am strength —
I am frailty –
I am…
I am Redeemed.

I am more than my name.
I am more than the labels I give myself —
I am more than the stickers and gold stars
Of approval from other broken
Maras, Marys, and Sarahs.
I am who I am because He is
Who He is – the great and mighty
I AM.

Ready? Begin…

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I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

I say this pledge every morning. In unison with my students, we stand with our hands over our hearts in respect and reverence for the things we are to remember. I wonder if they are fully aware of the profundity of this pledge of this allegiance that tethers us together as Americans — as citizens of the great United States. I think not. They are roboting their voices in unison – monotoned, droned, Novocained to the impervious nature of these paramount utterances. By saying these things, does that make you any more or less American if you actually mean it when you say it? Sometimes I try to recite it as if it were the first time or as if my voice wasn’t metallic and inky, but the struggle with that is timing – pacing – uniformity. We MUST stick together or this whole thing falls apart. Is that really true? Who am I to say in earnest or even in true honesty because I, myself, am a fluxing flowing void of psyche and obligation. One MUST say this pledge. One MUST stand with hand over heart and RECITE from memory – from five years of age until you no longer bleed blue. Well, I bleed red, white, and blue; but I don’t like saying the pledge. Does that make me a bad person? No, of course not; but I can’t help thinking that it is a slap in the face to those who have fought for my rights for my un -, sub -, or under-appreciated freedom – it’s nothing to sneeze at, but these poppies keep pollenating my sinuses. God bless you! No, let’s leave Him out of this, shall we? Can we? Is that at all possible? I think not. What if I lived like I truly believed in this pledge? What would my day look like? Would I do things, say things, appreciate things differently? Or would I continue to robot my way through the unsatisfactory endeavor to achieve what Jay Gatsby and Willy Loman couldn’t? That elusive, slippery little lie – the great American Dream of happiness and contentment…I haven’t found it from saying things, from mere recitation. Perhaps, I must put my money where my mouth is…but the casting shadow of Lady Liberty is long and wide in the sunset of my dreams. So, I will continue to perform in the most allegiant of efforts to entertain, sustain, maintain the proclivity and profundity of that Star Spangled Wonder hanging in the corner of my classroom and my heart.

Sun-stroke

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It’s quite difficult to explain
The complexity of my heart…
But sipping your champagne’d thoughts
Mixes nicely with my berried ripeness…
It’s all so clear — the allure
Was more than just ordinary physical
Attraction; the depth of his gleaming eyes
Revealed the truth neither of us wanted
To say. His hands tell me more
Than his well-meaning words do,
Falling flatly on the floor of my heart.
It may trick you, but it will never lie.
Just give me another sip, another drop,
Another other taste, another raspberry
Tumbles into my effervescent love.
The bubbles suffuse the ache in my heart;
Your sharp love softens in my airy thirst –
Bursting vacancy and seething peace.
A smile leaves my lips as the tenuous warm breeze
Tickles my skin like hands gently brushing away
The unruly tendrils from my face –
Just one last sip of the glittering glass –
Set it aside, my heart will imbue your pain.
The sun washes over me —
Eyes clenched tightly —
His glittering rays pull at my skin –
Like tender fingertips grazing
My chin, my lips — just before
A sweet, delicate kiss.

Shattered Pretentions

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Who is this woman I see here in the mirror?
An unrecognizable face – porcelain’d
Pristine – cracking under the pressure
Of unknown perfection – this mask
Doesn’t quite cover the flawed disquietude
Of her heart. Riven splinterings of vague
Familiarity – painted realities of expectation –
This looking-glass girl confides in me –
Doesn’t she know that these salted tears
Never salve the pain? Can’t she see the love
That is wrapped around her from beneath the
Vaneer’d prison she hides inside?

 

 

Stemmed Possibilities

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Life isn’t always a bowl of cherries, is it?
And if it were a bowl of cherries, let’s just say
That some of the those cherries would be
Overripe – others under, not quite ready for the taking.
And each of those ambiguously, flesh-covered
Cherries of varying forms of freshness could have
A seed in them – Oh the possibilities that each new
Bite brings! Pulling at stems – pulling apart the
Gathered and bunched fruit – tear into it and see
What it has for you – ripe or rotten – seedless or
Virile. Each new taste colors the truth you once
Held fast to – each fresh flavor nourishes a fantastic
Fluctuation of life’s fluttering finite beings. Cherries —
A whole damn bowl of them! Stop letting your eyes
And mouth water at the wonder of it all — just grab
It by the stem and savor it.

 

 

Proud Teacher Moment…sort of…

Dear Reader,

cropped-books.jpgToday is the day that I both look forward to and loathe. It is the day the AP scores come out. I try not to get wrapped up in it, but it’s difficult for me. You see, I am a perfectionist. And when I strive for something, I expect results. It worked beautifully in high school and college. I was number one in my class…I wanted it, so I worked for it and voilà! I made it happen. Although it may have come as a surprise to those who knew me in other capacities…Let me explain with a brief (and braggy) anecdote: I remember walking into my high school graduation ceremony with my special sash and medallion that signified my class ranking. I ran into one of my schoolmates (we never had academic classes together, but we were in the same drama production my junior year). Anyway, he greeted me with a hug and then asked me why I was wearing the valedictorian sash and medallion. I thought he was being playful, so without batting a lash, I told him I found it in the quad…but he was serious. I had to set him straight, so I told him that I was, indeed, the valedictorian. And this, dear reader, was his dumbfounded response (pun intended), “but you’re a cheerleader, and you’re blonde, and you’re hot.” I winced (trying to make it as much of a smile as I could because he was, in fact, being sincere…offensive, yes, but obtusely complimentary). That tautly pulled smile (more of a grimace really) was the only retort I could give…tis best not to say things we regret to people who are less than intelligent. All that to say, when I want something — I go after it, and usually I can achieve my goal.

When I became an AP teacher several years ago, I wanted to be the best damn AP English teacher to walk the halls of my school. My first year…well, let’s just say it was cropped-open-book-on-top-of-pile-of-books.jpgnot so great; I went back to the drawing board. I went to summer trainings and revamped my entire curriculum. And in the following years, my students began to pass their AP English tests with flying colors! This year was no different! My entire AP English Literature class passed their test!!!!!! (These are my AP seniors…I love them to pieces and still cry a little when I think about not teaching them anymore…they are all going to amazing colleges, so at least I know they are in good hands).  Now, I’m trying to stay humble about all this, which is pretty easy to do since my AP English Language class did not do so well on their test, but today, I am celebrating my successes and forgetting my failures (don’t worry, I’ll go back to the drawing board and revamp things later this summer for AP lang). I have a colleague (a fellow AP teacher) who wisely told me: “I get too much flack when the students don’t pass, and I get too much credit when they do.” I try to keep that perspective, especially on days like this.

In closing, I will tell you what I told my AP students: “The AP exams are 6103.jpegimportant, sure, but they don’t define who you are. It does not determine how smart you are or how successful you will be in life. Remember you are more than your AP score(s) – that is just a number based on one morning of your life; instead, measure your success in the day in, day out moments life offers you. And never stop reading; never stop learning.”

My Best to You,

Jaime