Monthly Archives: April 2015

#172: A Backwards Poem

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
complete disaster
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
somewhat miraculously.
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
Unfed, unwashed.

shows up.
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
is difficult.

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!

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#171: Penultimate Poem for April: A Review of Last Night’s Tantrum



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.
Ad electronics.
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.


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#170: Bridges


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?

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#169: Freshmen Boys


7th period
class is chaos.

trapped in
their teenage bodies

know how
to do anything;

being human
is too difficult.

completely out
of the question.

a concept
that doesn’t register.

never heard
the word before.

poor things,
are sadly outnumbered,

what’s up
and ignore boys.

will wait,
patiently rolling eyes

these boys
understand their ridiculousness.

could take
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.

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#168: Barack Obama Speaks of Mirrors


Barack Obama Speaks of Mirrors

What I see.
Damn, I am handsome
and my wife is beautiful
and my children–exceptional.
Hands down,
I am the most handsome
president in the history
of these United States
of America.
I, too, am perhaps
the funniest.
Did you see my spiel
at the White House
Correspondents Dinner?
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.


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#167: Sir Spam A Lot (a found poem)


From time to time, believe it or not, I receive spam comments through my little blog site.  They are often poorly written, sometimes hilariously so.  And they remain a complete mystery to me: Where do they come from? What is their purpose? What could the originator of the message, be it a real live human or a machine, possibly want from me, possibly hope to achieve? I’ve written about this before and thought maybe that would be the last word, but this one came to me today and it was ripe for picking.  What follows is a found poem, the exact text of the spam comment but broken into lines, and then a new stanza of mine in response.  Could be fun. Another bonus poem for napowrimo: Extra Soul Credit.

Sir Spam A Lot (a found poem and a response)

Mr. Jarmer,

Thank you
for any other
informative website.
Where else could I
get that type of information
written in such
an ideal manner?
I have a venture
that I am just now
operating on, and
I have been at the
look out for such information.

Sir Spam A Lot

Dear Sir Spam A Lot,

Thank you valuable for this.
I hope your operation was
successful and your patient venture
is well. Such another informative
thing I have not found, so again,
much to be thanked on.
I appreciate as well such
an ideal manner of written things.
I hope the lookout finds you
finding this type of information

Michael Jarmer

p.s.: More ideal manner of things informational can be found here

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#166: A Couple of Clerihews

Warren/Nietzsche 2016!

Warren/Nietzsche 2016Nietzsche1882

Senator Elizabeth Warren–
she won’t allow any snorin’
but neither will she give us our fun;
she refuses over and over to run.

Friedrich Nietzsche
could not be seen with a pee-chee;
a notebook guy, clearly it’s true–
how else could he pen Zarathu

Michael Jarmer
has become quite the verse farmer,
but attempting some Clerihew fun
exclaims, Oh, my, that sure was dumb.

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#165: Our Phones Are Too Much With Us

This was too damn hard. Finally, I had to abandon Wordsworth’s awesome rhyme scheme because almost nothing rhymes with seven. At any rate, “The World Is Too Much With Us” is one of my all-time favorite poems and now I’ve gone and ruined it.  The poem, exactly as Wordsworth penned it, published in 1807, says as much about our cell phone addiction as my paltry offering does! I struggled with the fact that so much of the time I just wanted to leave the poem exactly as it was. The assignment today was to write a satire or parody based on a famous poem. The following is neither satire nor parody. Read the original after mine in the unlikely event that you don’t know the poem!
Our Phones Are Too Much With Us
Our phones are too much with us; twenty-four seven,
texting and sexting, we lay waste our hours;—
Little we tweet that has any power;
We have surfed our minds away, a dead heaven!
This Sky that beckons with stars at eleven;
The friends standing next to us at all hours
Are all neglected now like weed choked flowers;
For this, our constant gaming; we are out of whack;
It moves us not. WTF! I’d rather be
A monkey climbing trees in a forest;
So might I, leaping from limb to odd limb
Feel a part of a thriving, singing chorus;
and I’d laugh at people, all distant and dim;
who from their stupid smart phones can’t divorce.
The World Is Too Much With Us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.


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#164: O Miranda

pick a card, any card

pick a card, any card

I got this one

I got this one

O wonder!
How many goodly creatures are there here!  
How beauteous mankind is!  O brave new world, 
That has such people in’t.

O Miranda

O Miranda,
I, too, have known tempests;
I, too, have been separated from a father;
I, too, know the feeling
of beauty, goodness, or courage
creeping through a bit at a time
or exploding off the page
or in the room or with lovers
on the beach or on a stage
where in London I saw
Vanessa Redgrave play
Prospero as a woman,
or where, last week, in Portland I saw
Twelfth Night, in which a man
in drag played Olivia, a man
dressed as a woman who falls in love
with a woman disguised as a man
and why the hell not?
O brave new world!
How beauteous is mankind!
How many goodly creatures indeed!

Here’s the initial free-write:

O Miranda, I too have known Tempests; I too have been separated from a father; I too know the feeling, rare as it is, of looking around in wonder at whatever it is that presents itself, beauteous, goodly, brave, because there has to be moments like that, right, where we can look beyond the general depravity or dishonesty or downright decrepitude of the human condition and see these moments kind of creeping through a little bit at a time, and then just kind of exploding off the page or in the room or on the beach or wherever the Tempest has tossed you where you might encounter the thing the thing the most spectacular aspects, the most redeeming qualities, only the goodly, the good, not the bad or the ugly, or I suppose, that in these moments even the ugly might seem lovely but that’s hard for people generally speaking isn’t it, finding beauty in the plain, the mundane, the unattractive, but that’s not what Miranda is talking about.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this play but outside of its original context it seems to me to be this pure expression of gratitude and thankfulness.  I don’t know, has it been five minutes?  Has it been five minutes?  I’m not sure what else to say. I remember seeing this play in London with Vanessa Redgrave as Prospero–a gender bender production just like the one I recently saw of Twelfth Night where Olivia was played by a man in drag and I was thinking, sure, he’s beautiful and I wouldn’t kick him out of the bedroom but I don’t know, I think I’m just saying that because it was the first thing that came into my head as I was thinking about the guy dressed as a woman attracted to a woman disguised as a man and I guess that’s a little bit shocking.

Here’s today’s inspiration from

“Today, I challenge you to take a chance, literally. Find a deck of cards (regular playing cards, tarot cards, uno cards, cards from your “Cards Against Humanity” deck – whatever), shuffle it, and take a card – any card! Now, begin free-writing based on the card you’ve chosen. Keep going without stopping for five minutes. Then take what you’ve written and make a poem from it.”


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#163: Pastoral


The yard, my trees, this very afternoon.



I’ve taught inside a classroom without windows
for twenty-seven years.
On the one hand, my work is done on the page
and in the mind and with words moving through
space between people in a room;
through imagination and through language
we bring the outside in.
And yet, on the other hand, if I allow
myself to think about how many hours
of my life I have spent in total blindness
to what’s happening outdoors, I cringe,
A little insurrection occurs inside the heart.
Perhaps my hesitance even on the nicest spring days
to take students outside is the subconscious way I have
of making them experience 4 hours a week
for a semester what I have experienced my entire
professional life. See how they like it.
Only now after so many years in the dark
do I feel the injustice of this.


At home, though, the oak trees tower over
the yard and the house and the driveway.
I count twenty of the giants, recently pruned,
looking none the worse for wear, and in April,
ready to burst forth with their abundance.
There are no sheep in my yard and I am
certainly no shepherd. This is suburbia.
For so long I railed against it, but I look up
at these trees, zero in on half a dozen
distinct bird languages, the squirrels wreak
havoc on the feeders, the bees begin to buzz,
the ants march, ripeness is all, and I feel
at home, in a place where I belong,
in nature, albeit, 500 feet from cars
speeding up and down our road far beyond
the 30 miles per hour limit, and the kids and stupid
people who occasionally throw their fast food
garbage into the ditch. Yesterday, my wife
found a computer there, buried in the weeds.
I look back up at the trees and hear them laughing.
They will outlive us all–or they could–provided that
whoever lives here keeps shepherding their lives.
Right now, that’s me.  And despite
the sometimes darkness of my classroom,
at home, I’m fine, making up for lost time.


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