#393: Poem on April 20, 2021

The suggestion from Napowrimo today is to write a sijo, a traditional Korean form. It’s like a haiku, only wider. It’s a wide-load haiku. Lines can be as long as about 16 syllables. And it has a kind of magical relationship with the sonnet, I’m told, in that it’s kind of a discussion with twist at the end. I don’t know why I chose this photo to accompany the poem. I felt like the tone was correct even though the subject matter is unrelated. There are some cool images on the new “free image” library in WordPress. News to me. Enjoy!

Poem for April 20

Three quarters of the way through, eight months of staring at a screen.

It feels like I have been talking to myself all year long.

My students, like ghosts; I see their shadows and sometimes hear their voices.

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#392: Poem on April 19, 2021

April 19 must be Catharsis Day. Today’s prompt from Napowrimo was to write a rant. So I took the opportunity to get some stuff off my chest. It felt good. Don’t worry about me; I went over the top–you know–for effect. I went full-on grumpy old man. I had a good time. I recommend it for everybody.

Poem on April 19

And another thing!
I sit outside for ten minutes
And I’ve got these stupid little
Bugs all over my shirt.
Meanwhile the dog keeps
Digging holes in the yard
And the neighbor lady
Keeps yelling at her barkers
And I’d much rather hear
Their barking than her yelling
And her grandchildren are
Playing in a big mound of dirt.
Why do people throw
Their garbage in the ditch?
Don’t people know there’s a
Speed limit on this fucking street?
And every time I hear one of
Those engines that sound like
Helicopters or a billion lawn mowers
I just want to scream bloody murder.
No, you can’t hook up a goddamn
Gasoline burning engine to your
Stupid bicycle. They’re called pedals! 
Am I just supposed to say yes now
Every time a student asks for something?
Yes, you can turn this assignment in
Three months late. Sure, yes, it’s okay
That you haven’t attended a single class
The entire quarter–because I can make time
To look at your late work
During the next quarter when I’ll have
Another ninety new students.
I’m so done with this, people keep
Saying, and I’m thinking, no, you’re not!
Or rather, it doesn’t really matter
That you feel done with this; whatever this is
Will still be going on whether you like it
Or not until it stops. Stupid auto-capitalization
At the front of every new line! What century
Is this? And I call tech support for some
Ugly shadowing on my laptop display, and
It turns out my battery is swelling like
a hard sponge or a cancerous growth.
And I send the computer to Apple and they
Replace the battery but there’s still this
Ugly shadow shit going on because the two
Problems had nothing in common and now I’ll
Have to send it out again for another repair!
Damn it, don’t throw your needles in my yard!
And now Morrissey’s angry at The Simpsons
And that one Russian guy is at death’s door
And don’t get me started about guns and Qanon
And that congressman with an enormous head
Who’s in trouble for sex-trafficing a minor
And that Jim Jordan guy who thinks wearing a
Mask is a violation of his civil liberties. I’d love
To violate that guy’s civil liberties. Let me at him.
My skin is super dry and I itch all over. Where’s the
God forsaken moisturizer in this house? And what’s
Up with these ugly spots on my arms? Work with me,
People! If it ain’t one thing it’s another stupid thing.  


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#391: Poem on April 18, 2021

Today’s suggestion from Napowrimo is to write a poem based on or inspired by a chapter title from a book called Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life With Words by Susan G. Wooldridge. The Look Inside feature from Amazon gives us a peek on to the contents page and it contains a surprising and evocative list of starting points, a table of contents so good that you really want to read the book. I’ve not heard of this text before, which seems to be a kind of inspirational tool for would-be-poets, à la Bird By Bird, or Writing Down the Bones, or any number of “how-to” books about writing–not so much a craft study as a kind of self-help genre designed for writers who are not writing and who need purely generative sustenance. Running a little bit low on energy this evening, I found a title I liked from this contents page, and, while it made me think of a whole host of things to write about, it really all came down to this haiku.

Poem on April 18

Please don’t understand
that what I most want to say
I’m afraid to say.

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#390: Poem on April 17, 2021

Poem on April 17

“Daddy always looked to the moon.
He claimed it as his own.”
I wrote those lyrics 20 years
ago for a song we recorded,
only loosely about my dad
about 10 years before he died.
Those two lines, though,
we’re an accurate portrayal;
Not that my father really
believed the moon was his,
but somewhere along the line,
because he loved it so much, he
probably just said something
like, “There’s my moon,” and
it caught on, so that every time
a family member, especially
my mother, who cherished her
husband, saw the moon, a good
full one, they’d say, there’s
daddy’s moon, or there’s
Glennie’s moon. As a child,
I fancied that my father’s
possession of the big rock
in the sky was literal, that as
a young man he constructed
it somehow and then just got
a really tall ladder to find
its perfect placement. In my
mind’s eye I can still see
that fantasy as if it were a
real one. At the very least
I will continue to think about
my dad every time I see the moon,
mythologizing my father,
keeping him present and
very much still alive as the
years pass and I try not to forget
what he smelled like,
the sound of his voice.

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#389: Poem on April 16, 2021

Poem on April 16

Our task today is to write a Skeltonic
but I don’t mean, when I say, to be ironic
that I’m glad our plague wasn’t bubonic;
it was bad enough, our case was chronic
and I think I’m supposed to keep up this sonic
rhyme scheme until I run out, subatomic,
of words that sound like a mixer, a tonic.
I guess it’s okay, half way, to sound moronic
on day 16 of 30 of this poetic catatonic
but I don’t know how long I can stay on it
because I can feel a cheat coming on, shit.

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#388: Poem on April 15, 2021


Poem on April 15

My mother talked to herself.
I remember listening in
from the hallway as she’d go on
and on as she was doing some
chore or another in her bedroom,
putting clothes away, tidying up,
dusting, cleaning the bathroom.
I rarely could make out what she
was saying, but mostly I could tell
it was serious. She took these
conversations very seriously.
I think what she was doing was
rehearsing conversations she’d
like to have, or weighing particular
decisions, talking her way through
various outcomes, or taking both
sides of the issue, exploring options.
She was her own devil’s advocate.
Was she ever caught in the act?
I think she was. I seem to remember
crossing her path in one of these
moments where she would be speaking
to no one in particular and I would
look at her kind of funny. There was
no self-consciousness about it.
She wasn’t embarrassed. She didn’t
apologize. And perhaps I looked at her
only kind of funny, because even as
a young boy, I knew it was something
we had in common. As a child, my older
siblings already out of the house,
my play was full of speech
to no one in particular, and today,
when I’m doing the dishes,
tidying up, cleaning the bathroom,
mowing the lawn, or just sitting
around, I will speak to no one
in particular, and almost always,
no one in particular will respond.

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#388: Poem on April 14, 2021

what students might see during a simulcast

Poem on April 14

I try to imagine how it will go.
Let’s say I’ve got 15 or 20 students
in the classroom with me.
Let’s say I have another 5 to 10
students who are still at home
but who would like to partake
in the classroom happenings.
They call this a simulcast.
What it really means, I imagine,
is that students at home
will be looking at a blank
white board on their computer
screens. Because my voice
might be amplified, they might
hear me, disembodied, addressing
the students they can’t hear
sitting in desks
that they can’t see,
and even if the audio is swell,
what they hear will be decidedly
one-sided. If they work really
hard they might be able to pick
up a full exchange or two.
The students at home, every
once in a while, might see me
move through their screen
across the blank white board
to get from one side of the room
to another. But every now
and then, I will probably stop
in front of this computer
to check in on them, to see
if they have questions, to see
if they would like to contribute
something or share something
with the other students in the room.
And this explains, in large part,
why they don’t want us to
deliver new instruction during
a simulcast. The students
at home would be seriously
disadvantaged, even more so
than they are in this scenario.
I imagine that only the hard core
will stick with it and the truth
is that right now there’s just
no better way outside of hiring
a film crew for every teacher.
Teachers just have to do more
of that miracle stuff they do
and that everyone expects,
you know, super hero teacher
stuff, like being all things to
all people and in two places
at one time.

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#387: Poem on April 13, 2021

My school house.

Some new habits have already fallen away. For example, I think I went three days in a row without a preamble. Either I found it unnecessary (as it actually should be with poetry), or I just ran out of time or energy or both. But I continue with the continuity of titles or the lack thereof–which is an easy habit to keep up as it requires not a single iota of creativity. Each poem is titled with the day the poem was composed. Easy peasy. Today’s poem does not follow a prompt, but has been coming on for some time. As a teacher, the return to my building, to interact with students in person for the first time this school year, has been ever present in my mind. So here’s this:

Poem on April 13

Students will return to school
on April 26 after learning at home
exclusively for a full three quarters
of a school year.
Teachers will return to school
on April 26 after teaching at home
exclusively for a full three quarters
of a school year.
Some teachers will return to school
on April 26 after teaching alone
in their empty classrooms
for a full three quarters
of a school year.
Some students and some teachers
will enter a building this spring
for the first time, literally, a building
they have never stepped foot inside.
Everyone will be masked.
Everyone will keep at least three
feet of distance.
Masked teachers, it appears,
might be wearing microphones
so that the mumbling they do
will be more or less comprehensible
and that their voices will endure
the three hours every afternoon
when they are in the presence
of live students.
In the morning, beginning April 26,
all students and teachers will continue
learning and teaching in empty classrooms
or at home, as they have done
for a full three quarters
of a school year.
Each group of those computer kids
will have a chance to join their teachers
as real live kids–twice for each class
every week in the afternoons
in actual true-to-life classrooms.
Teachers have to decide,
after they have taught their computer kids
and then some of those same students
show up as real kids, what to do now
with the live ones, knowing that they
can’t theoretically give the live students
something that the computer students
didn’t have, in fairness. Although,
we know, don’t we, that they will
end up giving the live students
something that the computer students
didn’t have, by necessity and in actuality.
Time. Opportunities to explain, to clarify,
to demonstrate, to repeat, to unmuddy
the botched computer lesson, to observe,
to supplement, to look into the eyes of
students and to hear their voices
for the very first time. For students,
time and opportunities to question,
to write by hand, to speak, to be heard,
to be helped, to be seen.
Teachers also have to decide
how they will continue to do
the things they were already doing for a full
three quarters of a school year
with the three or four hours they
are now dedicating to the live ones
in the room. They weren’t sitting
on the couch eating bonbons;
they weren’t lounging by the pool
or taking exhaustive afternoon naps
or enjoying early afternoon cocktails.
So the most difficult school year
of their careers gets a little bit more
difficult even as it gets a little more
joyful at the same time. We’re banking
on that last bit. This school year,
almost more than anything else,
needs a shot, maybe even two doses,
of some serious joy, an infusion
of happiness, a strong, exuberant finish.

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#386: Poem on April 12, 2021

Poem on April 12

In my deck of Greek philosopher trading cards is the rare Tomarchus, disciple of Socrates, a rhetorician, accused of licentiousness by Aeschines, some other Greek philosopher so obscure he doesn’t have his own card.

In my deck of science fiction terminology trading cards is the word areography, the study of and/or mapping of Mars. Ares is the god of war in Greek mythology, the Roman equivalent to Mars, not the planet but the god. The word Ares, though, and the word areography, sound similar to me, at least in part. The first part.

I find it interesting that human beings are so committed to studying and mapping the planet Mars. I also find it interesting that the Romans named their planets after their gods. Or was it that the gods were named after their planets? The Greeks, apparently, named their gods after themselves.

Phoebe Bridgers, early this year, caused some controversy when she smashed her guitar on Saturday Night Live. I don’t understand this. Were people concerned about the guitar? My only concern was how adorable she was, and how incongruous it was for an adorable person to smash a guitar, but I wasn’t mad. There are better things to be angry about.

Phoebe Bridgers is not in my deck of rock star cards. I don’t think rock stars get in trouble for licentiousness, unless it involves something illegal and/or non-consensual. Smashing a guitar on stage doesn’t seem to fit the bill, although, I am relatively certain that the guitar did not consent to its own smashing.

It’s interesting to me that we call them rock stars. Is it because they seem so far above us mortals, like gods? I wonder why we don’t call them rock planets. While philosophers have looked into The Simpsons and South Park, I don’t know any philosophers that have looked into rock stars, but here I admit that I may have missed something.

The point I’m trying to make here is that philosophers, planets, Greeks and Romans, and rock stars all have one thing in common. When I know what it is, I promise, I will pass it on.

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#385: Poem on April 11, 2021

Poem on April 11

Note to Self:

Hey self. Why so crabby lately? You might need to exercise or meditate. Why so resistant to exercise and meditation? Do you feel that, since you have deprived yourself of a single bad habit that you must also even the scales with the deprivation of a couple of good ones? I don’t know if I’d call that an even trade. Hey, how’s that book coming along? Oh yeah, that’s right, you haven’t worked on it, hardly at all, since summer. I understand that’s a good way to finish a book–by not writing it. And you’re just sitting on a couple of finished things. How come you’re not sending them out? Do you really want to publish? Or is it that, once you’ve published, there’s more work to do, and you’re not willing to do that? Are you not good enough? Good as in talented? Or good as in, you know, good? Are you afraid of failure? Are you afraid of rejection? Why are your students doing so poorly this quarter? How have you let them down? What’s your problem?

Sincerely yours,


Note to self from Self:

Hey. F you, self. You’re an asshole, and I’m not listening to you. Nor, will I honor your stupid questions with responses. You are not my inner teacher, but the inner school-marm, and, as such, are in the business of guilt and shame, and have no authority in this house. Need I remind you that there’s been a pandemic on? Need I remind you that life as we know it has turned upside down, and while some have suffered immeasurably and far beyond what I have done, all of us have had to make adjustments in our lives, in our behaviors, in our relationships, in our vocations, and in our professions, and everybody deals in the best way they can deal. My game plan tends toward kindness, self forgiveness, openness to whatever comes–you know–Rumi’s guest house. So take your admonitions and your judgement and your reproach and shove ’em where the sun don’t shine. I will exercise and meditate when I am ready. I will write when I am ready; I will submit my work when I am ready. By my self, my family, and my students, I’m doing the best I can do, and not so poorly, come to think of it, thank you very much. And F you, again.

Sincerely yours,


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