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Silence in the Classroom

I actually wrote a poem about silence when there was a prompt about sound… so here’s silence, take 2.

“Silent Rambles.”

I gaze at my hand in silence and for the first time I notice
how the fluorescent lights of the cafeteria
reflect in my almost-perfectly-applied fake nails.
I wonder if Big Brother is watching me
as I write this poem during an in-service
on my school-issued MacBook Air.
Probably not, because the school is too engaged
in SGOs SGOs SGOs SGOs
and apparently I am too
because FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH OF OCTOBER
the majority of my damn poems
have been somehow connected to my life
in the classroom,
outside the classroom,
and how the classroom has been infiltrating my brain.
I’m all over the place,
but grounded by my teacher life
as it takes over my existence.
Also, I just noticed that my ring is shiny
but cheap
because I bought it in college
when I was unemployed, hungry, and broke
and accessories were more important than food
and now it has turned my ring finger
a nice shade of turquoise green.
I need a coffee break.

What could we do?

Today’s prompt is to write a “reply poem.”

I’ve had this inexplicable love for Mark Doty’s poem “Tiara” for the past 5 years or so. Mark Doty was the first gay man to reject my lesbian ass, metaphorically, of course, by rejecting me from his poetry class. His rejection led me to embarking on a 7-semester journey of poetic discovery. I even wrote about him last summer.

Anyways, as I said earlier, for the past 5 years, “Tiara” has stood out to me as a powerful peace. I first heard of Mark Doty when I heard him read this poem at the Dodge Poetry Festival in 2008, and it was the first time I could connect the words “queer” and “writer” together.

So, watch this video of Mark performing “Tiara.” My poem really has hardly anything to do with his.

 

“What Could We Do”

“…what could he do,
what could any of us ever do
but ask for it?”

It is incredibly moving
to realize the power
of words left unspoken.

When words are left unsaid–
or, perhaps,
unsaid to their subject–

what power is stripped away
from both the speaker
and the current topic?

To think the subject is unaware
of the mere commonality
of being a conversation piece

is, plainly put, stupid,
but they continue to beat on
against the rhythm of their own stupidity.

When callous words are spoken–
perhaps out of fear, or misunderstanding–
the power of the words are stripped.

Inquire, desire, dive into the truth,
whether it be through a questioning
or through small talk,

and fulfill your needs
to know the truth
without being cruel,

for the cruelest of moments
happen
in the most innocent passings.

Speak your truth.
Defy the heartless.
Rise above the rest,

and stay at ease with an open heart.
What can any of us ever do
but ask for that?

I want to hug 11.5 year old me.

Last year at this time, I was student teaching. I taught a lesson on September 11th to my students, and, while I may be mistaken, I’m pretty sure I was required to.

This year, there was an announcement on the PA system commemorating the anniversary. I had to force my students to be quiet during a moment of silence. The moment passed, and nobody seemed reflective of it. They seemed pretty unaffected by it, which is normal I suppose– to them, September 11th is something that happened in history. They were too little to understand or even remember it, and that’s how it will be every year that I teach.

So, instead, I started our Culture unit in World History with a lesson on cultural groups, stereotypes, and diversity, and, as my students worked in groups, I ended up silently reflecting on my own experiences over the past 12 years.

I’m 23.5 years old. For more than half of my life, I have lived in a post-9/11 world. I’m part of a generation who is one of the last generations to remember a time where airport security wasn’t beefed up, when September 11th used to just be another day in the first or second week of school, and when the Twin Towers were part of the NYC skyline in real life, not just in “old” movies.

When September 11th happened, I was scared. I was convinced World War III would be starting, and I spent much of the months following September 11th believing unexpected warfare and death was lurking around the corner. I also said “God Bless America” a lot, even though I wasn’t a particularly religious or patriotic child. I think, like a lot of Americans, the phrase provided some sort of unity and comfort that I needed at that time.

I was a scared little girl, and I coped the best that I could– I discovered writing.

So, for the generations to come that will only view September 11th as a day in the History books, much like I grew up viewing Pearl Harbor, I share with you my diary entry from September 11th, 2001, and my follow-up entry on September 11th, 2002. There were plenty of panicked entries in between, and I tried very hard to write like a journalist– I think I was attempting to create a time capsule of some sort in case the terrorists “got us.”

I wish I could give 11.5 year old me a hug and tell her everything would be okay, just a new sort of normal, but I don’t think a hug and words of reassurance could have calmed my nerves. September 11th, 2001  was– and is– a scary, emotional, life-changing day, and my raw feelings are something that my students will never be able to understand.

So, hug a loved one tonight, and remember not only those who were lost, but the moment your life was changed or touched in some way.

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Somehow, I thought this spiral notebook would survive the end of the world. I really thought my words would be a time capsule for generations to come in a post-9/11 world.

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