Devoted exclusively to the creative process. Here you will see photojournaling, poetry, prose, an occasional review--journaling or philosophical writing can be found on our other blogs. This is our attempt to use our imaginations. Enjoy!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Waters edge (interlude to Toffee Love)

Could you see me if I got any closer?
If you looked over your shoulder
And saw the mirrors reflection grazed onto the moon?

This is not the time for dim recall
Nor for the dewy eyed remembrance
Of the lost days spent star gazing and skimming stones.

We wrote our history in chalk dust
So that the winds of memory
Would blow and cast those thoughts away like crumbs.

words by cocaine jesus

for future fishy features please visit Ritual Acts with Penquins

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Things You Left Behind

Came home last night
to an empty house.
Stripped of all essentials.
Picked clean like a fish
to the bone.

You cleaned out
pretty meticulously, like only
you can.
Furniture, furnishings, crockery,
linen, music system, washing machine,
cosmetics, the magnetic stickers on
the frig.
You even took the lone bindi,
from the bathroom mirror.

All that are remaining are my
books, looking forlorn and forsaken,
cowering against the wall.
Like stricken,
abandoned pets.

It’s like, you didn’t
want to leave behind anything
that might remind me of you, or of our
love that we once had,
of the joys we shared.

But you are wrong.
There are so many things,
you have left behind.

The long drives drenched in
monsoon rains , shivering
and sharing a cuppa chai,
in a wayside dhaba
in some remote dirt road.

The surprise Sunday mornings when I served
burnt toast and bland tea,
to your royal highness in bed,
to your amusement
and my consternation.

The musky amorous outings that
notch the bathroom door.

The night I drove to you,
from miles away as you bled,
losing our only baby.

Or the days you nursed me
as I deliriously rambled from
some strange fever.

The times we went to plays,
browsed in book shops, or just
doodled on each others
passion spent, basking bodies.

These are the things you
left behind, indelibly etched
in me.

How I wish I were a bird, that
I can molt memories, and
begin afresh.

Sept 2003

Friday, January 27, 2006

Celluloid heroes never feel any pain

Zbrush and Photoshop.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


we fool ourselves no longer
we believe more in rain than we do in oceans
we fear nothing now
last night’s untouched bed proves it.

we need the other no longer
there are many roads laid out for either one of us to take
father always said that we had dreams too large
and hearts too small.

we listened to him once. but he is gone now. and we forget.

we are just two sides of the arrow
north and south, you and i
we lose mariners in soulful stares
and they sail in our surrender towards the impatient seas.

maybe father was right all along.

once, i felt like 1932
and i remembered you disagreeing
we were us even before years had names
and you said that 1932 was too dark a year
for our cheerleader tendencies.


a persistent itching came from the constant feeling of metal melting

If only

if only i could tell you
(but i can't)
how the blue check shirt
and the silver-rimmed glasses
haunt me even today

if only i could tell you
how i knew that moment
my search had ended
but i can't

if only you believed me
if only,

but you can't . . .

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

If the night has to fall

The city with you was a dream
two days when the sun didn’t set
you don’t set on me now,
resist the night

Delirious night has nothing to offer

Wander around the graveyard?
And then to The Park,
same Someplace Else?
You know their numbers by heart, come on now,
Let the guitars be thrown
Let them walk out the door,

Not you,

Treacherous night has nothing to offer you

Crow’s feet don’t show, you say
potholes neither,
your anomalied day shrouded in velvet, looks long and promising
for me, in the night,
there’s La Martiniere somehow
and a picture of me with a violin
a delectable boy with his brown beard and French accent
talking about Bach

I didn’t like his fumbling fingers
and yours are strumming a dark tune
with nobody humming in the background

You are alone, so strum me someday, play a never-ending song

What’s there for you in the death of night anyway?

Watching the stars? I’ll watch with you
If you find a place,

Can you find one for me too?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Persistence of Longing

The road to Sarah and Lisa’s had become overgrown over the years. He would have missed it this time too if his eyes had not stopped, and if the memory of a road had not risen up from the prairie grass, elms and oaks and faded years and drawn him into the wood.

It had been a dirt road once, and never well traveled, but wide enough for a car to pass, and sometimes two if both went very slowly and squeezed close to each other. Now it was nothing more than a foot path, and in places a weaving bike trail, going deeper in, ending who knew where.

He had been this way before, and after the first few steps his feet seemed to know where to lead him. Once on the path, he questioned how he could have forgotten this place. Had he stopped looking, stopped expecting what lie at the end of the trail, had his mind buried it deep in disappointment, waiting for nature to follow suit?

The narrowness of the road irritated him, and he got on his hands and knees and pulled out clumps of grass and small tree saplings, smacking the clods angrily against the ground, shaking loose the dirt and widening the road once again so he wouldn’t forget it next time. It was hot work, and slow. He began sweating freely. It was taboo work for a Sunday, but who would see him or think to look this way? The work was for him and him alone, he guessed, a private penance for letting the weeds grow up where footprints should have been. So he worked on because it must be done. Because it seemed the right thing to do. Because he needed this.

As he made his way through a clearing, into darker woods and around a bend, the two houses were still there, right where they should be, standing side by side, lonely sentinels huddled close together. It was the house he had left as a boy, and their house, only this time no longer abandoned, no longer owned by another man, no longer rented out and then boarded up. It stood as it once had, and light poured out from the windows.

He went around to the side door, the entrance for friends and family and never strangers or unwelcome guests, and lifted his hand to knock, but then the door opened and he didn’t need to. Brown-haired Sarah stood in the doorway, and before he could say anything she grabbed his arm and pulled him inside.

“You should have come sooner,” she said, clearing shoes from the entryway.

“I tried,” he said.

“Not hard enough.”

“But it was years.”

“A little longer. You always did quit too soon.”
“That’s because I never liked the games you would pick.” He stopped, and smiled, then looked squarely at Sarah. “But you weren’t here. You never answered my letter. The letter came back. It said you’d moved.”

“Odd,” she said.

“That you’d moved?”

“No, the letter. As I remember it was mostly about the dog.”

“No reason not to answer.” He paused. “Is Lisa . . .”

“Here,” she said, before he could finish. She smiled faintly. “She’ll be glad you’ve come.”

He tried not to seem too eager, but he brushed past her, a little too abruptly. She stepped back and let him pass, accepting why he had really come, no matter how hard he’d tried to be cordial and pretend otherwise, how hard he’d tried not to look over her shoulder or how hard he’d tried to listen to her without voicing his question. He’d come for Lisa.

Lisa stood at the sink, blond hair shorter than he’d remembered, arms buried in soap suds, but when she looked up she smiled, then quickly dried her hands on a towel and ran a hand through her hair, and turned toward him. Her stomach had become rounder, her face less defined, her hair a little duller, but none of that mattered like it used to. To him she was beautiful.

He pulled her to him and their lips met, a warm, familiar kiss. She squeezed against him for a moment, then pulled back. Her arms went slack and she pushed away. “Stop,” she said. “He’ll see.”


“My father.”

“Why does it matter?” He searched the blue depths in her eyes.

“It just does.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Don’t try,” she said, and before he could bring her back she left quickly from the room. He had a moment to notice the room, the spare orderliness of it, the towel hung neat and straight next to the sink, the swept floors, the stool tucked snugly against the wall. The china in the cabinet, behind glass, in perfect symmetry. The clock above the doorway, catching the last light of the sun across its face held an empty orderliness to it all.

Sarah entered the room, and he saw her like he hadn’t before. What he had remembered was the short girl with limp brown hair, metal braces, and spotty complexion. Now the braces were gone, revealing straight, white teeth. The skin, while not remarkable, was unblemished and bore a healthy, peaceful warmth. She looked happy; she looked content.

“You never met my husband, have you?” she said simply.

“No. Who is he?”

“He’ll be along soon. His name’s John.”

“Any children?”

“One. A boy. Takes after his father.”

“Congratulations. And Lisa?”

“Never married.”

“Why not?” For the first time Sarah shot him an annoyed look, but let it pass. “Father needs her.”

“Since the divorce?”


“Can’t he let her go?”

“He could, but won’t. She’s his right hand. And he’s fiercely jealous of her.”

He tried to speak, but couldn’t. A tightness formed around his eyes, and Sarah took his hand and squeezed it warmly. “Let it go,” she said, and there was a soothing gentleness in her words.

He heard the front door open then, and heavy booted steps across a wooden floor, and the booming rough voice of their father. “It’s time to go,” Sarah said, and quickly pushed him out the side door.

* * *

The road led away from the house, and he stepped onto it, following it blindly, letting one leaden foot carry him further ahead. The forest closed over the road behind him, but if he had noticed, it would not have mattered. In the distance, the light in the window from Sarah and Lisa’s house winked out, and the house became a silhouette, then faded into mist, and then the house next to it followed. The woods had grown dark, but a light shone in the distance and he picked his way along the trail, trying to head for it as best he could. While the journey in had seemed to take hours, the journey back only took minutes. He stepped out of the woods, onto a concrete paved road with a median. In the center stood a street light. He looked up at it, and beyond it he could see a few stars.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Toffee Love

She entered my life like summer.
Warm as honeysuckle and sudden as nicotine.
I remember the first collision of our eyes from across a silent room. A silence filled with the hubris of business. A spark that flew at acute angles and bounced around the distance between us like Morse code. A semaphore signal that rode on wings of lust and damp desire.

Of all the gin joints in all the world you had to walk into mine.

Funny that.
The way that quote floated into my mind at just the same time as my eyes were undressing her.
As she was undressing me.
The strange, inexplicable magic weaved its drunken spell and we both became intoxicated by its voodoo.

The Gris Gris and the chicken bone.
Shake them.
Shake them.

Days bled into weeks and the turmoil of our lives twisted knotted desires between us and neither one of us could break the cord. And ironically neither one of us could break the vows we had made those years gone by.

Loyalty or fear? Maybe elements of both.

The age gap played no part. It really didn’t come into the equation. Commitment did and there was none on offer. None we could truthfully deliver.

She danced before me and threw off her blouse and we kissed and promised the stars to each other but all we had to offer was a fistful of rose dust.

I would have tasted those lips forever. I would have parted those thighs and laid my heart in her hand but that old devil, commitment and loyalty, and the love of children, strode between us with a vow.

She entered my life like summer and just as soon as seasons change she was gone.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

"A Patience Unit"        [55 words]

The world was an imposition on his thoughts.

On the other hand, it held the dim promise of an interesting story.

He was thus reeled in. Not that there was a choice.

One goes willingly or unwillingly, when tugged.

At certain moments, it seemed a doubtful proposition.

Was he a patience unit in the factory?


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Saturday, January 14, 2006


is down on his knees hand braced against the counter
ear lowered nearly to the ground as he peers into dusty darkness
searching the hardwood slats for a penny that has rolled away
balanced perfectly on its smooth edge.

I like to believe there is a heaven for this
not for all things lost
but for this: the will to explore the entire world
with undying generosity for everything in it
the way this boy on knees that will hold the deep impressions
of knots and the heads of nails long after he has given up
will walk out the door into a summer sun so bright it blinds him
will halt in his tracks with his hand above his head palm out against the sky
will reach out to capture the light in his fist and believe it done
even with the sun still above him
with the penny still somewhere out of reach
but still there where he left it
always unrecovered.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Final version

Original image

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

"Landscape with desire"      [ghazal]

Landscape with desire
              but it's not a question of green
could be winter white & dire
              & you lacking from the scene

how long since my adventures
          amid neighborhoods of pinetrees!
are there cones to spur the fire?
                    hypothetically   I mean

your chin I think is eloquent
          it's got a doctorate or something?
when it's time for it to retire
              will it don a gown of green?

eternity wasn't my pilastrade
        I could barely reach the pedestrian
but I liked to join the choir
            that's how my song grew keen

to look at me one may imagine   I'd been around the block ten times
but in fact I'm naive   (it's dire)       should we call for Nasrudeen?

this is not a memoir nor a pretzel     neither yoga nor my confession
when Ardeo's a tad inspired           he's more fatuous than a teen

Monday, January 09, 2006

freedom sessions

it was always the same dream, over and over, a dream with fingers that tangled themselves in her hair or traced her tender spine like a trickle of stars or gripped her solidly by the hips while it thrust itself right inside her subconscious until there was nothing else but the dream that filled the little dots of air and breath and passion between this bed here and that piano over there which he played fluently, the way he played her body each and every night, between her lips, between her thighs, my god, the sighs, the moans, the bent tones that came with her slender ankles unfolding themselves from around his waist to hit the black and white keys, so that in the end, the dream would empty itself out, liquid and angry, and its cry would tear at her, and she would come apart, like shreds of fragrant, fragile affection under one's nails, and she would die just a little bit, with the dream leaving her supine, weeping in wide-eyed, childlike wonder, until it came to her again, the same dream, always the same dream, over and over.

Through the missing window...

A purple tree
A yellow earth
Those mangoes flying upwards

You drove your car
through silver
and lakes are liquid gold

you laughed and cried
and i could tell
that hint of a teasing smile

i felt a rose
and polar bears
and feathers on those unicorns

i saw a reindeer
in the snow
and pheonix rise from ashes

i kissed your lips
and felt your tears
you said those were for joy
(though secretly, I really thought that I had stubbed your toe!)

My winters and my summers
in lovely gale and snow
My feet so very static, yet I was on the go!

those four walls just surround me
i'm far beyond
Nothing's hidden or unknown as this is all clear as crystal
through my missing window



Father, I lie alone...
they think me dead in mind--
my sanded mouth, vinegared lips
tells them nothing--
their mangled wheel, my stretched skin--
blow after blow tells them nothing.
Legion hovers, ravenous vultures,
they delight--a spine snaps somewhere--
their moist voices, room trembles with their chill--
another limb crackles, he kisses...wipes me fresh--
air's alive, stench of their truth, my good bones--a trophy for their hearth.
They free me; I go, raising my withered claw in benediction.
Aglow, see the cleaving light through swollen clouds;
my downpour of heretic blood swallows the bleary inferno.

Note: Anne Askewe was a leader in the growing Protestant movement during the latter reign of Henry VIII. Anglican statesman discovered that she had many sympathizers among the aristorcracy, including Katherine Parr, wife of the aging King. Hoping to extract important names, Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Wriothesley and Solicitor General Sir Richard Rich racked her in the Tower of London before burning her at the stake. She revealed nothing, even after they broke every bone in her body.

High Plain Drifter


High Plain Drifter

I need to feel a blanket of snow
Onthe ground to cover our soot
Slow water to heal the root
where growth is still vital
Cold cover for thin repeated dirt
Still, smooth frozen sheets
For bed, to sleep and wait
Cold lives warm in rotation
Our quiet equivocation tivks

JM 1-8-06

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Carved & shaped   [a responsive sonnet]

Carved & shaped
        or quarried & moved

chipped & scraped
        or polished & buffed

what we are
        grows finely grooved

this   the artist
        first out-roughed

then returned   with tinkling files
    prodding   sanding   blowing breath
        in our sheen   he sees his smiles
            while his little knives marked   death

                birth   pain   growth-confusion

                finely edge   the stony mass
                often a wash   of warm illusion
                lets the sediment   lift & pass

        from this workshop   who egresses?
        few are finished!   patience blesses

This replies to the two sonnets below (Jyostna's and Deemikay's).

Further to Jyotsna's sonnet...

Here's one written this morning. :o) I haven't written one for ages and ages...

Stone sonnet

Some stone set down and lifted up again
to be placed there and poured over once more.
Some stone lifted to remind me of when
its soft shape was taken from the floor.

Take this stone sodden from the shadowed stream
in a forest of rowans and beeches.
Held up and dried, lifted from life to dream,
left far off from its woodland reaches.

Launched into the hands of city dwellers
who know nothing of its wet beginnings
but its change outwith sheltered umbrellas
and its speckling with the sky's downpourings.

This stone set in a city dweller's hands
brings tree and river to the built-up lands.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

A Sonnet-Untitled

Carve me; Shape me as you will,
sculpt me, mould me as you wish.
Chipped edges to smoothen and fill,
with your artists brush, its gentle swish.

Challenge me to lessons, yet to learn,
nudge me on towards the end.
Emotions to delve in, beliefs to burn,
a cathartic journey with many a bend.

Light my shadows, dissolve my fears,
kiss my wounds and hold me tight.
A gentle touch to remind me you are near,
to build my strength and face this fight.

Not a fight, this, just an ordinary day
at life’s school, where I learn to make my way.

Just tried my hand at a sonnet :)

The Fan

In your head
There is violence,
Malice, jealousy,
Unquiet silence.

And you think
The same for me.
It strains your
Casual repartee.

How you wish a knife
Twisted into my guts.
Spit on my face, see it
Sullied with your insults.

But when we meet,
“Oh! I love your poetry!”
“Ah! Just wordplay!”
I quip with feigned modesty.

©Dan Husain
January 7, 2006

Or was it Romeo and Juliet or Oedipus the King all those fragile lives
in secrecies palm weary at best just beyond love’s folly (which sprang
upon all of us with the joyful lust of young Labradors) lingering so slowly behind
as we sat uneasy in our chairs captives to their unearthly blindness

And there was no resolution not once not really conflict riddled them all too successfully the layers of lies blossoming then falling away pulled free by an eager wind’s long fingers scattered elegantly (yes, elegantly) upon the earth
to pave the way to useless pageants a stranger’s hand to hold
a distant apothecary’s kiss a heart spilling silken blood from a wounded chest
one man’s rage toward darkness

Let it be known that by love I do mean fate how it changes everything
Incredulity scorn a fallen king’s cries the fragile webs between us
sagging beneath the weight
It’s easy to say we don’t deserve this this game of waiting on lives already fallen to fall yet we dare not walk away in case the fates have slumbered have missed their cue to cut these strings and chance is born unto us all.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Under the "influence" perhaps, Sir?

How did we hold the ice
When it came in slush?
And where did we take it?

Did we take it to Morbid Mammy,
Who spends her afternoons, washing?

Or did we take it to Daughter Drearie,
Who chills beneath the bronze cap
Of a vividly metaphored popsicle stick?

Did we throw it on the bin?
So that those who come next may see a bit of our fortunes,
"They may swell, Sir, you know."

I would have thought it'd have gathered by now,
Into a formidable army
That wrecks my house from underneath.

And before I know it, I cry, and cry, all the time
Till I wish I was here for yet one less evening.

For an evening well spent
Is like an evening where you make your possibilities
Double their odds, untill they are fixed in their orbit
And you cannot change your point of view.


I thought the salt tasted well,
Well to go with the food I had ordered
In a bit of a hurry.

Because I had thoughts to catch up with.

Baad Hair Daay

Mice and Men

Thursday, January 05, 2006

god is dead (and how we know)


The woman across the hall was the first to find Him. Usually, the loud knock of any baked goods called Him to his door. A moment there, oven mitts between hot glass and her palms, was all it ever took. And when the door would open, after a moment of standing there, their silence would spill out into the hall and rap lightly on each and every door till no one heard it. So when it happened, this passing away this way alone behind closed doors, only the cats that roamed the halls at night knew, and gathered at his door, pacing back and forth, pawing the slice of light there. When the firefighters arrived, the noise of their pounding and plying wood with axe blades drew a small crowd to their doorways. Once inside, standing by the body was hard. One of the men toed Him. The others, and I mean each one of them, looked upwards though not a one would mention it later when asked of what they saw. Instead, they ate cake, an entire pan, licking their fingers eagerly. The woman held it up for them till it was gone. Her burden relieved of her, she thanked the men, by squeezing their arms. Each one of them—and I mean the woman too--felt full, and looked down again, sucking the cake off their teeth behind their lips, until they felt nothing there.

The Writing Specialist

It’s 6 pm on a Tuesday night. Also, what I’ve come to call “show time” (at least to myself). The last few students arrive, leaving behind their 9-5 jobs so they can sit through another four hours of a lecture and workshop on writing. Four hours is a long time to have to sit through anything, but especially writing, and I know better than to think the students have come to hear me talk about it because they love writing, like me, or like my voice (though I’ve been told it’s kind of soothing, much like a dentist’s voice right before they start up the drill). Many of them are wondering what they have to do to get an “A”. Some are feeling sicker than they’ve felt before a first date or big job interview, and many of them are wondering if they can do this “school thing” after being away from reading and writing and the classroom for a number of years. At home, their spouse may be waiting, their children, Survivor, or a number of more appealing alternatives.

Even I don’t like hearing myself for four hours. In fact, I don’t talk much at all. The same knots in their stomachs are also cramping my own. I can’t eat. My mouth feels dry but I can barely swallow a mouthful of water. It’s opening night and I feel like I’m on stage and want to run anywhere but here. A few things keep me here. One of them is my love for writing.

I begin with introductions, and prayer, and ask everyone to describe their enjoyment of writing, what kinds of writing they do, and one movie they like (I like movies too, so this helps me decide whether certain movies are worth seeing). Some of them say they hate writing and don’t know why they signed up for a writing intensive program, others say they really enjoy writing and are really good at it and expect an “A.” After teaching a while, I’m not sure if they’re saying this because they really do love writing or if they think that’s what I want to hear. The next few weeks will prove this as they put thoughts and words onto paper.

Usually people bring food and we have a potluck at the beginning of the night or halfway through. It feels a bit like an AA meeting, and many of my students have been to those.

In their other lives, their lives outside school, many of them are husbands or wives, moms or dads, managers, employers, sons and daughters and caretakers. Some of them are going through divorces. Some are trying to figure out how to raise their kids. Some are getting married. Others are getting ready to bury their parents. Many of my students have worked in hospitals, or prisons, are fire fighters, police officers, EMTs, veterans or social workers.
One man comes to class the first few weeks, then gets emergency orders and is shipped out to Iraq within the week. Other than the phone call telling me he is dropping the class for now, I never hear from him again and don’t know if he’s still there, is alive, or back home with his family. I think he has a young son, and maybe a baby on the way. Another woman is waiting to be shipped out soon and has to find some friends to take care of her three kids while she is overseas. She’s a single mom, going to school, and enlisted in the national guard on the weekend.

One student comes to class and announces her ex-husband was waiting for her in the driveway when she came home from school. Since then she has gotten a restraining order, but is still afraid to return home and asks us to pray for her. The next week she misses class and the week after that. The following week she calls and drops the course.

Another woman pulls me aside before class, in tears because her paper for that night isn’t done. She’s been living in a shelter the last week, lost her job, and her ex-husband has taken her oldest child until she is out of the shelter. Thanksgiving is less than a week away and she asks if she can get an extension. Of course I say yes.

We meet in banks, in business complexes, either downtown or in out of the way areas of the cities. I teach in four different cities and often my car becomes my office. In the last couple years I have logged tens of thousands of miles, have learned bits of new languages, have heard a number of books on tape, and have tripled my CD collection. Even though it’s a writing class, we don’t talk about Shakespeare, Milton, or even Faulkner, but sometimes I refer to Stephen King, John Grisham or Patricia Cornwell, Chuck Palahniuk, and even E.B. White and William Zinsser. “Writing is a conversation,” I say. “Writing is music, it has rhythm, and characters and drama, and action and personality, emotion and humor, and is above all human.” The students nod in agreement, or question this, or share their own experiences from watching Sex in the City or L.A. Law, reading the newspaper, or having conversations with their spouse about who will pick up the kids from band practice. We wrestle together, talking about, thinking about, and doing writing together.

Many of the students write about their own personal experiences. My first year teaching writing to adult students I learned a lot. I think I aged a few years in that one. Now I have a few gray hairs to prove it. We used to meet for an hour, one-on-one, to conference over their papers. I got to the point where I’d bring a box of kleenexes, sometimes for me, sometimes for them, sometimes for both of us. Some of the students wrote about getting shot, some wrote about watching their mom or dad get lost in Alzheimer’s. A few wrote about getting married or having kids. Someone wrote about losing her best friend to cancer (that was hard). Some shared how they had been abused as kids, raped, molested, or merely neglected. One in particular wrote about her miscarriage. Another told me how, when she was in high school, four girls pulled her into the back of a van and raped her. A few of them wrote about wrestling through the alcohol demons, or drugs, or coming out of a gang. Many of them as students were looking at these situations from the other side. They saw hope. They were going to kick this. Coming back to school was their way of proving it to themselves, their families, their friends, and the world.

Writing is a solitary activity; writing is a community activity. Over the next few weeks, for four hours a night we become like family. We laugh, cry, and vent our frustrations over not finding the right words, over mutual deadlines and the pressures from school and outside it. I love being in the classroom; I hate grading. I have a hard time looking at students in the eye as I pass back grades. Some have called me a hard grader. Others have called me fair. Some have even said they’ve learned a lot about writing in the process. I used to get frustrated, even angry when I talked about a writing principle in class, or spent time going over how a paper was to be formatted, only to find it not done in the actual paper. Now, on some of the harder nights, I wonder if any of it matters or if there’s any growth at all. It helps me realize how slowly I learn as well, and lessons that should be obvious to others aren’t as obvious to me. That puts things in perspective. I begin to understand why Jesus’ disciples could live with him for three years and still not understand what he was trying to tell them. I realize how we’re all slow learners in some ways.

There’s a lot that goes into teaching, and teaching writing, that I didn’t realize when I was a student and before I began teaching. A lot of it is lonely, behind-the-scenes work. Nobody told me about the hours of grading I’d be doing on my own. Some of my writing profs who had been teaching for a while also hated grading, but said I had to grade quickly, not read every word, and get at “mostly just the highlights.” Maybe that’s why we have such a difficulty with writing. I don’t spend as much time at the office as I used to, it’s hard to get work done there, at least the reading and grading, so I often grade in my living room, my bedroom, or a coffeehouse. I do like the community at the office, though, and sometimes need that just to stay sane.

The end of the night comes, the end of the course comes, and we shake hands as we say goodbye to each other. Many of the students say it was the best/worst experience they’ve had, but feel like they’ve grown and have had a world opened to them. We promise to keep in touch, though I know deep down something has come to an end. I drive home in the dark, thinking about the night—the people, the conversations, the questions, the stories—and feel both connected to something real, and also very alone.



Tuesday, January 03, 2006

To the Seedman

Billy I think you're bright you know
Shining isn't easy but it's right to show
Taking each in each another, lighting
Then forgiving each forever, sighting
Here comes love
Existence motion
Never mind which local ocean
Going yonder you forget beneath our dream
To give out new remembering

12-17-05 JM

To the Seedman

To the Seedman

Billy I think you're bright you know
Shining isn't easy but it's right to show
Taking each in each another, lighting
Then forgiving each forever, sighting
Here comes love
Existence motion
Never mind which local ocean
Going yonder you forget beneath our dream
To give out new remembering


For my husband

I dreamed you were my private flower,
close to my breast, you knew
my heartbeat, my thoughts, my sins.
You forgave me everything with your
delicious spice that enfolded me in the
greatest love I have ever known.

Flowers forget the end to eternity;
they breathe life into state air.
You breathed into me; your inhalation wove its
way into endless weeds that clouded my mind,
making me clear and whole again.

Yes, I do. But the truth of love lies only
in flower beds, tended like children. My love grew wild;
more weeds clutter us. Now I know that
fragrance is transitory, like love you share that
later wilts in the winds of winter that says the end.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Prone to atrocity

Prone to atrocity
(for Thomas Edward Shaw)

Impossible completely -
once seen you always remain
a rabbit on the hillside
in forgettable rain.

A rabbit on the hillside
sent tumbling down
to a look of fire below
the muddied ground.

To never be completed
the secret is never to be seen
by those who once saw you
scarper in the rain.

To view all the fires,
take the demons as you run
away, far off, retreat from them –
run, rabbit, run.


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