Coffee Cup Poem no.96

November, 2013

I woke up to the first frostccp 95
tipped morning of November
with a shiver in my step,
crawling out of bed with
a whisper of a yawn.

This week was whirling gone,
as briskly as winter came.
I move nomadically from task
to task, underwater with desperate
and muffled hope that
I have failed no one this day.

I shall sleep through the season
to be wakened when the crocus stretch
their limbs from their benumbed slumber
and we shall greet life together.

Coffee Cup Poem no.95

Imprint

I used to want to be something
bigger than myself,
timeless and known, permanent
and eternal. The light green burning
endlessly at the end of a dock.

ccp 95

I chose instead to quietly place
delicate fingerprints on those I meet,
invisible, microscopic, yet traceable.
That is surely enough
to leave an imprint.
The tiny peaks of roots above the grass,
leaving so much unknown but steady.

I desire only as much,
no bright flashes or bangs,
only the solitude of my soul,
patient and unwavering,
and the satisfaction
that I was my best self.

Slam Poem

This week my students had a poetry slam and I participated. This is the poem I shared/performed with them titled “Nerd.”

When I was a kid I won a medal
For reading two hundred books in the third grade
Cool, right?
You see, back when we were wild eyed children
peering at the grass and searching through it
to see if it held secrets, and rummaging
through cabinets trying to find a hidden
door to a secret world, only to find that box
of pop-tarts mom put high up so we wouldn’t
gorge ourselves on sugar,
well, being a nerd was alright.

Then something changed—
suddenly it was uncool to read and
in middle school I was meant to spend time
practicing N’Sync dance moves.
My friends would say that books made me look
like a geek and nobody wants to be friends
with a geek. Turns out I needed new friends,
because really I was led in a terrible direction
when they prompted me to tie my hair in
a fake-haired scrunchy,roll my shirt up
to expose my tummy, and put on
3 inch foam Spice Girls platforms.
I was 5’7 in the 7th grade and I looked ridiculous.

So in high school I decided to hang out in a different click,
because everyone has clicks in high school even if
they don’t like to admit, and I was deemed a punk and a nerd-
which was fine because I was no longer the “geeky giant”
with a man-shoulders and weird Next-Gen t-shirt that
I wore at least once a week—although it still made appearances.

Now I get called a nerd at least five times a week,
which is okay, because I am.
But I also see it being used to put kids down,
like it’s something terrible—a visible scar,
but it’s not an insult that could be hurled
or at least it shouldn’t be.

I’ve come to terms with what it means to be a nerd.
My nerdiness connects me to the world and
to something larger and less self-serving
than just myself. It connects me
to ideas and feelings and wonder
about where our world is going
and also where it has been
To me, being a nerd means I take time
to investigate the world around me
and that I form relationships
with others who also question
and think critically,
and most importantly have curiosity
about anything.

You see, being a nerd is never an insult,
but a point of pride and self-love
and I will go on being a nerd
because like bowties,
nerds are cool.

So take some time to pull those glazed over eyes
from the glare of a screen and examine what it means
to be a human being.
You see, I think it is a human strength that we
cannot fully understand our own existence.
In hundreds of years of good and bad guesses
music that pulls that heartstrings, literature that seeks
to define love and grief, as if it is possible, we have yet
to come up with a ‘right’ answer or an encyclopedia entry
on the perfect and purest form of humanity.
It is our vast complexity and trek for discovery
that really keep us going.

The minute we have all the answers—
solve every equation, predict every outcome,
analyze every emotion and idiosyncrasy
or worse, the minute we don’t care to seek,
is the minute humanity ceases to be unique.

So you don’t have to be a nerd about sci-fi or books,
You don’t even have to be a nerd about anything “nerdy”
but be a nerd about something–engage it,
because once you believe you have all the answers
life ceases to interest you—time
becomes a constraint sent to bind you
in infinite boredom, but you are bored
not because you have all the answers,
you are bored because you have ceased to look.

I may be a Trekkie and still aim for 200 books a year,
but that is simply what I chose to love.
That is simply how I discover and chart my world.
Pursue wonder and never stop searching
for that something that makes you passionate
and makes you feel something.
Because at the heart, being a nerd is not about what you love
but it is about the way you love it.

A Thought Continued

I was recently upset by the Gun Control initiative recently died in the Senate. I remembered the poem I wrote previously about my fear of guns and how strongly I dislike them. I decided to write a continuation of that thought and wrote past the first three stanzas of this poem. It works well as slam poetry, but I think it also translates on paper. This is not a condemnation of other viewpoints, but an expansion of my own.

Shooting Games

Somebody asked if I would like to shoot a gun
just for sport, a hobby out in the woods,
I froze.

I could barely muster up a No,
torn between feeling as though it were silly
to feel so antagonistic
but still the feeling in my stomach argued
with logic and I couldn’t bring myself to hold it
the cold barrel, heavy and metallic
and easily deadly, in my cold hands.
I could not imagine the feeling of power
and suffering and far too often
contained in something so small and toy like.

So I collected my words, uncomfortable,
waiting at the depth of my mouth, but stirring
in the pit of my heart and very calmly and politely said
“No, thank you. I’d rather not.”

You see, guns to me are not a sport,
but a family tragedy
where there is only a memory
of imagined gore
and unimagined fear.
An empty bench,
and a premature goodbye.

You see this week a gun control law failed,
and flailed in the arms of the senate
begging for the smallest of cautions
met with great resistance
and I can only cringe and ask
isn’t it worth the tiniest of measures
if just one time a shot
is stopped.

You see, this to me is not a great roadblock,
or even a steeping block to something bigger
but an almost meaningless precaution
taken to ease the pain of those of us
who have lost at the hands of those
wielding guns—see I am not naïve enough
to blame the gun, but I can blame it’s
overwhelming presence, and think
that maybe that small allowance
would give me small comfort when I think
of my father.

Because some days I sleep peacefully and restfully
without waking in a sweat, without seeing violence
under my eyelids, without cringing at images,
once indifferent but now unsettling.

Some days things are alright, but other days
I hold back the frenzy, like a shadow it follows me
sewn to my toes and mockingly dancing with pain
as it pokes at the back of my neck trying to get a rise.

No, I am not naïve enough to believe
that it’s the fault of the gun—I am all too aware
that the fault lies with the man holding it
thinking about ending life, isolated by
hatred, self-doubt, or unjustified motive.
I see a gun in the hands of someone giving up
on life and taking it by force
never mistaking a deadly weapon for
a water-filled harmless action.

So until then I will kindly decline to hold a gun,
something toy like and tragic in one
so often sold and easily bought and politely say
“No thank you, I’d rather not.”

Inaugural Address

Today is history
in the making, I saw
eons of hate and injustice and judgment
and pain wrapped in a cage–
still banging wildly on the bars
but locked and tightly knit
with hope.

Hanging on the words of a man
hoisted by desire for change
despite voices calling for a fall
and a nation holding its breath
in the storm of what is to come
and the wreckage of what has been
our story.

For so long–shrinking pockets
and a war waged from fear and
inequality for people like me and
people different from me but
in ways so slight and immeasurable
when it comes to life and
the news ringing with gunfire
every night at eight.

Today I teared up listening
as a nation came together
and whispered a prayer of hope.

Coffee Cup Poem no.68

Come With Me, Little Girl, Dusk is Drawing Near

The world I know is burning away
Beams of sunlight fall with ashen tips,
On fire and lost in the surges of gray.

My heart sinks, lost in the searing fray
As light fades black behind an eclipse
The world I know is burning away.

And yet I drag my feet, stumbling astray
As songbirds sing for me. Mute, my lips
On fire and lost in the surges of gray.

Someone’s voice is telling me to stay
But I do not want to hear, lost, my mind slips.
The world I know is burning away.

Before my eyes, the town ignites, a bouquet
Of ashen coals and sunset singed tips
On fire and lost in the surges of gray.

I force a breath, thick with cinders, melee
Has taken over and I search for a grip–
The world I know is burning away

I fall in front of a charred alter, pray,
But its all so overwhelming and I see it slip
The world I know is slowly burning away
On fire and lost in the surges of gray.

Coffee Cup Poem no.65

This Morning’s Thoughts

This morning I woke up
lesson in hand
armed with coffee
and ready to teach.
I look out on a morning
perfectly dreary
thinking of my warm classroom–
my second home.

On the drive my mind wanders
to students arriving
umbrellas and raincoats
wishing for a power outage–
today’s planned poetry lesson
may be a hard sell–
my mind is anticipation
and curiosity and hunger.
My classroom calms me
as I set down my things
and wait…

Coffee Cup Poem no.63

Happy Easter! I decided to write a poem about a rabbit, but it’s not exactly cheery. It’sreally just the retelling of a Grimms’ fairy tale “The Rabbit’s Bride.”

A Rabbit’s Tail for Good Luck

Sit on my tail and go with me,
Go with me to the Rabbit hutch, he said
Gathering cabbage, waiting patiently
As the girl, young and clever, looked suspiciously
At what the Rabbit had said.

Sit on my tail and go with me,
Go with me to the Rabbit hutch, he said
Twitching now, impatiently,
Jerking his ears, leaning back on his haunches,
You will be my wife the Rabbit said.

Sit on my tail and go with me,
Go with me to the Rabbit hutch, he said
And she gathered a boquet and accepted his plea
Thinking what a beautiful bride she would be
I will go with you to the Rabbit hutch, she said.

So the went together to the Rabbit hutch
To be married happily, as he said
But the girl, very clever indeed
Snared the Rabbit, her groom to be
And carried him home, so it is said.

She took the Rabbit to her mother
And they cooked him in a stew as they said
Never again will he steal our cabbage
Or tempt this young clever girl to marriage
And mother and daughter kept his tail, so it is said.

Bedtime stories turned insomnia cures

In my opinion, one of the most challenging things to do as an author is to create a work that is both appropriate and enjoyable for young readers, yet equally entertaining for adults. For adults this entertainment is not purely nostalgic, but genuine. These stories are plain and simple magic. They combine elements that capture a young person’s imagination and stimulate an adults. Since I think this is a great accomplishment for any author, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite books that I feel fit very neatly into this category.

1. Anything by Roald Dahl. Really. Take your pick. Here is the short list of some of my favorites/his most well known.

  • The BFG
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Matilda
  • The Witches

2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll
3. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury
4. The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling
5. The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien
6. The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis
7. Peter Pan, J.M. Berry
8. Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie
9. A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens (Can’t forget the holiday spirit, now can we?)
10. The Phantom Tollbooth, Norton Juster (One of my sister’s favorites)
11. Watership Down, Richard Adams
12. The Giver, Lois Lowry

One of my favorites on this list is Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Rusdie (its sequal, Luka and the Fire of Life is equally entertaining). There is a wealth of history and culture in this book, and I would eventually like to incorporate in my curriculum. When High School Students are taught multi-cultual novels, they are often from a very short list of books in the cannon (India, if covered at all, is usually studied through the eyes of Kipling). Now, Rushdie is certainly in the canon, however when teachers decide to use one of his novels it is usually Midnight’s Children, which is an extraordinary undertaking for a HS student. Haroun offers a literary merit that should satisfy even the most enthusiastic clingers to the classics, and, most importantly, a story and characters that students can connect with and will root for. You can’t help but feel as if you’re carried along on a magic carpet and transported into a world where the Word and Stories not only have extraordinary power, but are valued by all. Not only is it fun, but it actually satisfies Common Core Standards too.

These are just a few in what is probably a list of many. My options are not terribly extensive considering the fact that I’m limited to books I’ve read both when I was younger and as an adult. I would love to hear some childhood favorites that you still pick off the bookshelf for a good read. Hopefully (although you are no longer a child or young adult) you can find enjoyment in reading some of these books. I know I certainly still do!