I am Mara.
I am the bitterness you taste
In each sip of your morning
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 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 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.
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.
Today 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 not 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 important, 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,
When I was a little girl, I thought dandelions
were beautiful yellow flowers. I never understood
why my dad would get so angry
every time I made a wish
with those cottony clustered clouds.
Umbrella-ed seeds floating all
around spoke of all the possibilities of who I could be and
what was to come. My wishes rarely came true,
but then the parachutes didn’t
always catch the wind. Stubborn anchored sprouts refused
to move with a puff of my cheek. And I knew
that my dreams were stuck.
Now that I’m older, I know better.
Dandelions and their seedling blossoms,
the ones that line the beds of unkempt gardens,
are just weeds of wistful thinking.