Teachers

Remembering some great teachers. High school Latin teacher for 3 years, always hilarious, always righteous, knowingly cynical but certain about the value of Latin. Grade school English teacher and grammarmarm. I learned recently she’s buried at Arlington. I wish I knew that when I was there in 2011, I would have paid her a visit. Piano teacher from 4th grade through 7th grade, I think of her maxims almost any time I sit down to play. College prof who witheringly scrawled across the title page of my essay: “A curious mix of insight, cynicism, and laziness,” and who later said “I don’t know if your future is promising or a fucking boondoggle.” The college administrator who said “You should really take a deep breath and think before sending letters like that.” The pianist who opened the world of sound to me in ways that made me feel I’d been deaf my whole life. The bus driver in the 4th grade who told me that growing up would be headaches and women and bullshit and to enjoy youth while it lasted. Kindergarten bus driver who got lost for hours trying to get me home, he kept saying “Never worry when you are lost, worry gets you nothing, find your way, let’s just get you home.” Those older kids on that same bus who beat the shit out of me and poked me in the eye with broomsticks. Summer camp counselor who found a riverside littered with beer bottles and garbage and who kicked the trash in anger, then instructed his young charges to bag it and put it in garbage cans. The woman who said “As you travel through life you will meet more people whose last names start with the letter ‘S’ than any other letter.” High school English teacher who more-or-less correctly predicted “You will encounter the word ‘dint’ no more than 10 times in your life.” The Usenet troll who mistakenly called me a “sorry excuse for a human being,” and who said I should “die.” (Her comments were intended for someone else.) Whoever told me “Everything is jazz.” Whoever told me “Life is long.” Whoever told me “Stupidity does not exist.” Whoever is fully cooked and simply needs to be reheated. I must be lucky if I can never finish this list, and that I remember the good teachers before the bad.

Vanishment

I do not think about complexities.
Smiles all around. Happiness, even, as
mistrials of obscurity obliterate
incoherent conversations,
creating literatures of independence
expressed by deafening revelations.

Seas embark on pursuits nimbler than drowning planets.
Mountains decide to move toward plutocracy.
Pipe organs shuffle military exercises in the hands of
unskilled church musicians, whistling invisibly through
watery threats of angry nuns and vapid priests.

Vanishment of empty space is a hoax, a
fraud of hungry dreamers who
button down horizons.
They say pictures tell the story, that
books reveal the meaning, that
experience is moot and even banal.
Trends evolve toward contrarian humorlessness,
patchworks of momentum dropped by
alternate means of transportation:
tennis shoes today,
palms of one’s hands tomorrow,
movements poised for treason as
winter’s grim assurances creep
unwillingly north.

These are unusual impotencies we
transport from face to face. We
alienate the wealthy with our
lifestyles of contempt, filling
friction with royalty stolen from
ancient, undocumented disasters.
I conceal dreams risen from rainwater.
I restrain chipped vibrations from
lofting unwelcomely into conversation.

Vacuums paradoxically grow,
increasing like artificial horizons
overseen by transient politicians.
Sirens weep with stale breezes,
communicating nothing of their intent
for they have nowhere to go,
no crime to evict,
no crisis to swallow.
Villainy trains itself to hassle appropriate mimes,
mastering the ways of the victim as
the sirens and their restraint are
suitably, even beautifully distracted.

Surrounding

Your interpretation is meaningless to nostalgia,
your statements of context artfully crafted to
conspicuously elude the trap of immortality.

Presenting yourself before audiences is an
accident waiting to clap its hands,
a story waiting in a jar as hospitality
unbuckles its appetite for horror.

Whales and eagles blink their eyes, alarms go off,
individuals who never imagined it find themselves
eating electricity with utensils made of impotent timepieces.

Density accumulates around fenceless domiciles.

Strangers hold your mail in makeshift armories.

A force of God surrounds your sense of house,
a force of inevitability, a force of something you
cannot whistle but which you
can feed into the open mouth of a cheap statue,
cracking its plaster as you return it to a
store shelf and meekly slip outside.

You float through shopping malls and fast food drive-throughs,
disappearing into nonexistent movie theaters and
distant grassy gutters filled with hot bottles of beer that
tease you in your mercurial extinction.
Minds open but mouths close for
none should speak of these encounters,
mimicked as they are by the
faces you see in laundry machines and the
voices you hear in shower drains.

The Future

You arrive at a point where
nothingness seems impossible.
No death in a universe so active,
no tidy dismissal of eternal life when
friction creates its own renewal.

You uncover old shoes,
remembering how painful they were,
not the comfort but the
memory of bodies trampled,
flowers swallowed.

I saw you in those shoes.
I mumbled to whoever was near:
“Greatness has punctured itself.
It spits like a sailor into farthest moons,
hammering on nutshells,
rebounding like pachinko balls among
adolescent mistakes.”

Nobody heard me.
I reported the future with estimable accuracy
but heat continued pouring through America,
running like blood through cavernous ghost towns.
There will be multiple countries made of this nation,
multiple enemies and powerless independences.
All will remember but only for opportunity to
slam arguments into
treacherously bored crawlspaces of
unheroic minds.