#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.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

3 thoughts on “#163: Pastoral

  1. Lovely poem! It’s nice to find another writer (and English teacher) who is on this 30 day journey as well. I feel the same way about being cooped up in my room. Today, I entered at 7:15am and didn’t resurface until the final bell rang in the afternoon. My poor eyes could not adjust to the realness of the sun shining down on me. It’s a good thing I have plenty of books, students, and grading to keep me company in my classroom.

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