For Now

The sun feels good in this world,
warm,
wide-windowed breeze
and your brown clone sunglasses
with golden wire frames.
I think I’m falling.

With you, my skin is tanned to sand,
porch-picnic-ready,
your mom asking “So is he
treating you good?”
When I say yes,
she gets that twinkle
so I know what she means.
I nod, shy; she smiles, 
proud of her son.

I sit in your world
and we all eat chicken and talk
about school and 
TV and
how you know when you’re in love.
(They had a lot of wine.)
Here, your parents are mine;
they don’t have to say 
I’m welcome.

Now I remember:
Mom hides fear in her smile
while dad tries hard to forget
me,
sewn up tight as he
feasts on fury.
I am a billion sand-pieces
waiting for glass.

“Come on,” you say.
“The road’s too cool
for that.”
So I wrench out of then, 
kiss this
forget that
for now.

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Victory

“Stand back, stand by.”

I am about to know

I have loam and rock for a back
and blue-grey sky for a head

honor an orange sun yellow
and gaze purple into ink

rest in love
as I have done all these years,
wake to heartbeats
and sleep with all sighs.

Then 

when unripe Boys rape in dirt
and shoot dark;

masturbate dry pricks
blood-smear voided genitals

kill this body
gorge on dull meat
eat our kind
burn our memory;

then

my arms Earth and Sky
my companion-Sun
my love this man

envelop me
pierce this hell
carry me home.

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Mine

He’s a poster.
He posed for it,
flexed.
Baseball player
who’s won —
wife, kid, God, arms.

Good.
Yes.
I wish him well...

and then plod
up my empty street
soaked in past
and full of dark.
The house is on the right.
A light is on.
He waits for me.

Posters aren’t made of me.
My triceps don’t act like that.
Fans?  No.
My shy love
and this quiet plot,
beautiful,
mine and silent and 
home.

I’ll choose mine
every 
time.

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Home

Missing pencils and
half-used cakes of board wax

margaritas mid-afternoon
on an old blue-painted porch

the dog is sick
but the vet says he’ll be okay

“Do you ever miss Los Angeles?”
Yeah, some friends, memories

trouble is held back
by the rocks protecting the bay.

for Dave

Triptych

“Isn’t it just
so awesome, Chandler?
Topanga said hi to me!”

We’re both named after
streets?

“Why do I talk to you anyway?
Whitsett will love this story!”

The phone
stays belligerently still
as I remember
saying nothing.

The well she stands behind
is called Love.

Her job
is to scream
each time a fool gets close,
a brutal, wicked scream
that scatters birds.

The wise,
she makes no noise.
They pass on their way,

carrying water.

The path

Rembrandt and Shakespeare, Tolstoy and Gaugin, possessed, I believe, powerful hearts, not powerful wills. They loved the range of materials they used. The work’s possibilities excited them; the field’s complexities fired their imaginations. The caring suggested the tasks; the tasks suggested the schedules. They learned their fields and then loved loved them. They worked, respectfully, out of their love and knowledge, and produced complex bodies of work that endured.

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

After teaching for three decades, I believe this: the only thing that separates the good from the bad is caring — about your students, about your field. Not about the weight of your legacy, and definitely not about product (test scores, “outcomes,” sales). Why? You can’t measure what you love. You can’t even direct it. Love is the absence of measurement; who wants to see the receipt from a child’s gift? Go into a classroom with an outcome in mind, students will know there’s a plot afoot…and only those okay with becoming pawns will succeed.

The teachers I know who love what they do and who they work with are artists; all the rest, drones too afraid to find something else to do. Same thing for writers, and parents, bus drivers and painters: if there’s no love, there’s no art. Just activity accompanied by an agenda.