I don’t have to write a poem today.
And you know, I don’t think I will.
I will not write a poem.
I wrote 30 poems in a row,
a poem a day for 30 days,
so today I’m just taking a break,
doing other things, reading
the stupid news, drinking coffee,
making a comment here and there
on the Facebook, frying an egg,
discovering last night’s wine glass,
the one I looked for after everyone
had gone to bed before I gave up
and got a new one, you know,
things like that, nothing particularly
useful, worthwhile, or productive.
And then I think I understand
why it was so easy for me to
write a poem every day for 30 days:
an excuse to do something creative
instead of all the other things
I probably should have been doing,
useful, worthwhile, productive things, or
an excuse to do something creative
instead of reading stupid news,
drinking coffee, posting to Facebook,
frying an egg, searching for a lost
wine glass. I’ll admit it was good
for me, okay. But today, I don’t have
to write a poem. Today, I decide
I am not writing a poem.
I don’t have to write a poem today.
Welcome to the very last day of Michael Jarmer’s contribution to National Poetry Writing Month. The optional assignment for this last day of these poetic festivities from the napowrimo website reads like this: “Today, I challenge you to write a poem backwards. Start with the last line and work your way up the page to the beginning. Another way to go about this might be to take a poem you’ve already written, and flip the order of the lines and from there, edit it so the poem now works with its new order.” I chose the latter option, but to provide a kind of perfect bookend for my 30 poems in April, I have used the very first poem I wrote this month, a little thing called “Teaching Without A Voice,” and I have included it here in exact reverse without any editing whatsoever. And for additional fun, I have recorded the thing for your entertainment pleasure. I kind of like this poem better than the original. And the ending of this video, I think, is worth waiting for.
to it’s rightful owner
and for a voice to return
something somewhat less than a
crossing my fingers for a minor train wreck
I leave the building
many of whom wish me better health
to the students already there,
and walk out of the room waving goodbye
I go over the plans, point to the piles of handouts
In a whisper, because it’s all I can do
in the room, a substitute arrives
ten minutes before kids walk
in a whisper, when less than
and the Holocaust to 9th graders,
introduce Neruda to 11th graders,
to figure out how I can
stand in my classroom trying
I, the teacher without a voice,
sleepless night of coughing,
to stand upright after a
lunch unpacked, barely able
in the morning) and no substitute,
filing on-line for a sub at three o’clock
in the process (something about
but something goes wrong
teach without a voice,
there’s no chance I can
calls in sick, thinking,
the voiceless teacher
voice not yet functioning,
It hurt. And early this morning,
sexy or anything like that.
do was whisper and it wasn’t
the end of the day all I could
of their talking so that at
to make me talk over the top
They then proceeded
over the top of your talking.
don’t make me have to talk
I’m losing my voice so please
and I told my 9th graders
I was losing my voice
might do without his
more apt, what a musician
do without nets, or
what circus performers
almost as difficult as
Teaching Without A Voice
To those of you who have visited during Napowrimo, and to all of you who have visited before, I thank you! It’s been my best April ever thanks to you!
Last night’s temper tantrum
was a resounding success.
Let us consider the salient
features of the tantrum and
see to what heights of glory
were reached by last night’s
specimen. Usually, a tantrum
begins with some struggle
right before bedtime, typically
involving the cessation of play
and the transition upstairs.
This was most clearly evident.
There must be yelling.
There was a veritable smorgasbord
of yelling, reaching in several key
moments to the pitch of screaming.
Very nice. Tears are good during
a tantrum, if you can manage them,
and last night’s tantrum produced
puddles of the stuff. Perhaps
one of the most exquisite and
simultaneously painful aspects
of the tantrum is an apparent
absence of anything like squaring
with reality. Last night’s tantrum
included several resounding examples
of this: Why are you being so mean?
Why are you screaming? Why don’t
you love me? Nobody listens to me
around here! You get the picture.
Out of a whole season of tantrums
this was one of the most effective and
sustained. The conclusion, though,
I have to say, was most satisfying,
as the struggle reached a decrescendo
into something like quiet, peace was
achieved, and finally, everybody
went to sleep.
My mother hated bridges.
She hated driving; she would do it
if she absolutely had to, but
she would never drive across a bridge.
She did not trust them to support her
or she did not trust herself to drive straight across,
afraid of a fatal tack to the left or to the right,
into oncoming traffic or into the river,
both terrifying possibilities.
She no longer drives, period, so
avoiding bridges is no longer an issue.
I don’t care much for driving either
but I am not afraid of bridges.
We have about as many types of bridges
as the Eskimos are purported to have
words for snow. Our friends, the bridges,
we cannot, must not fear them.
Bridges must be crossed and we must cross them.
Who could stand to be forever stuck
on one side of the river or the bay?
Who could stand never to cross over?
Who could possibly stomach all that swimming?
Who else but my mother could afford the
steep fees of the ferryman only to avoid bridges?
class is chaos.
their teenage bodies
to do anything;
is too difficult.
of the question.
that doesn’t register.
the word before.
are sadly outnumbered,
and ignore boys.
patiently rolling eyes
understand their ridiculousness.
several years, unfortunately.
* * *
Note: To be fair, I must add that I do have a handful of freshmen boys who are NOT like the ones described above. They know who they are. They are rock stars.
Barack Obama Speaks of Mirrors
What I see.
Damn, I am handsome
and my wife is beautiful
and my children–exceptional.
I am the most handsome
president in the history
of these United States
I, too, am perhaps
Did you see my spiel
at the White House
Damn, I was funny.
Michael Jarmer laughed
so hard he wept.
And that evening when I
took the chair away
from Stephen Colbert:
I absolutely killed it.
So I am handsome and funny.
But could I be the most
progressive, the most liberal
U.S. president of all time?
I very well could be that,
too. And that’s one reason why,
despite positive approval,
I have so many detractors,
ravenous detractors on the
right and far right and wing-nut
right. The other reason is because
I’m black. The irony is not
lost on me. Our nation’s
cloistered, closeted racism
rears its ugly head when
a black man becomes the
president, just as its sexism
will rear its ugly head
when we elect a woman in 2016,
and we will elect a woman in 2016.
Not that racism and sexism
had not already been rearing
their ugly heads–only now
it has become like a game
of whack-a-mole. It’s everywhere
and all at once. But here’s
another thing I might take
credit for, if I may be so bold:
we can disabuse ourselves
finally that we live in a post-racial
society. We can finally talk about race.
And we can finally talk about gender
and sexual orientation.
That’s not all me, but in large
part I take responsibilty.
Look at me. Handsome,
funny, liberal. People have
health care now. That’s me.
We are climbing out of the
largest deficit in American history.
That’s me. Job growth up. Look at me.
I’m ending wars, not starting them.
Sort of. That’s the tricky part,
and, I know, despite his almost
unfaltering admiration of my job
as president of the United States
of America, it’s the one thing
that worries Michael Jarmer
the most. I would ask him,
has there ever been a president
who, by some kind of executive
decision, has not killed people?
Jimmy Carter? Is he the only one?
I have to look myself in the
mirror each and every day
and I have to be able to say
that I have made the best
decision I could make toward
the best outcome with the
least amount of collateral
damage. Bad guys are dead.
Some good guys, unfortunately,
have also died. Let’s be specific:
noncombatants, women, children
are dead. And I did that.
I’ve sent the drones that dropped
the bombs. I see myself.
This is also a part of
what I see.