The shop stems
from a narrow Newark street
where garages cram together like
we dine with plastic forks on the hood
of a half-painted Subaru
scallops, spanish potatoes,
a twisted spine of geranium
leans into the heat
beer is cold.
I flower a little
when I’m near rotting transmissions
tarnished rims, greasy
men under decaying carriages.
when all things beautiful
I discover the petals, parched
under a dark window
& lend them sun.
april snow showers
delicious wintry mountain
melts warm through my bones.
impale cumulus & blue
above my smile.
Even in winter, I bring my students hiking as they
huddle together, skeins of yarn bundling
down rocky trails, donning mittens, unraveling
laughter, they click photos and
fashion alpenstocks from
stacks of branches that
laze like pick-up
sticks on our path.
Shadows chat in batches
stop to watch a swan
a bog, slim clusters skip
quick like fledglings first flight
gripped with mother earth
kids board, jot last moment notes on
pebbles and silt,
aisles erupt in
song so they kneel
on vinyl seats, the color of ferns, and
look at each other
on this December
morning saturated with
sunshine as the bus
cries back to the building,
I miss now.
Hunched over worn
sun on his shoulders, bushels at his feet,
the master juggler sifts
beefsteaks from brandywines like
until evening falls when my
grandfather rocks to the crickets song,
cotton curtains billow in
soft summer gloaming
exposing that view where
in thirty years
a Walmart moves in
tomatoes sprinkled with benzoic acid,
but for now he sways,
toing & froing
cheap whisky in his grip, turbid
underneath a farmer’s fingernails.
Period Two fills as quickly as Period One empties. I notice Mia, always the last student to arrive. She slithers in, Starbucks glued to her mouth. The steam rises from the uncapped cup.
“Ms. Dunn, can I talk to you?” Her face is low and sad. I take a deep harried breath.
“Mia, I’d love to have a chat with you right now.” I drop a box of pencils as more tardy students come trudging in. “But the only thing I can talk to you about now is that we will have to talk later.”
Mia is one of those kids who hate school. She chooses to not be in Honors anything. The only class she enjoys is music theory. I look up and the girl is still standing by my desk. She plays at pleading.
“I still don’t have an idea. Ms. Dunn, you know I can’t speak in front of people. Pretty please I have nothing to say.”
I erase the board. My back to her. I giggle out loud remembering how much I loved playing school in my playroom. It was easier in those days, I had far fewer students and way more supplies. Mom kept my playroom stockpiled with scrap paper and pencils, crayons and chalk. I had an assortment of bright stuffed animal students whom I placed in individual wooden chairs. We had infinite hours to chat.
I spot a rudimentary chalk drawing of a penis in the bottom corner. I sigh aloud and roll my eyes as I rub feverishly.
“Ew, gross! Who drew that?” Mia squints.
“Someone who lacks the talent for life drawing!” I laugh.
Mia smiles. We are at ease with one another. I wipe the chalk onto my jeans and check in with other students. The girl slides her rings up and down her fingers as I approach her again.
“Mia, listen, this is a drama class and performance is a major grade. You have a great deal to say. We all do. You just haven’t found it yet.” I pause to think and say. “Let’s try the brainstorming activities together again.”
She stares at me. Her earbuds are in. She is not listening.
“Mia, loose-leaf, a pen?”
She pulls out a bud and digs through her bag as I bonk her head with a pencil, “Somewhere in there is a story to be told.”
A line of students form at my desk and I realize that I’ve spent an unfair amount of time with Mia. She senses my concern, gathers her bag, coffee cup, blank paper and says faintly but loud enough for me to hear.
”It’s okay, Ms. Dunn, school sucks.”
She knows I can’t leave her that way, so I follow her to her little corner of the room leaving a line of eager students leaning against my chair spouting requests. Squatting awkwardly by Mia’s desk my skirt is draped in between my thighs and my pen is running out of ink. I write the word MUSIC on the front cover of her notebook.
……..to be continued.
A fall & a whack
We are old
Stretch to the kitchen to see
An old china set
Your grandmother met
With a matching
Now smashed pot of tea.
We tidy the mess
A marital test
The feline is hiding away
We search & search
When we find she is perched
Professing it’s all a mistake.
The rain is loud & the
Cat quite proud
As she bats a sliver of bone
So we curl back to sleep as
I kiss your heartbeat
Blood pumping life into stone.
Lunchtime for a high school teacher is a daunting reminder that life is a perpetual state of adolescence. Slivers of light filter in through three slim windows as aging Algebra teachers pour weak cups of coffee from a thermos. Paper plates, sippy cups and sporks splay across tables arranged a la H-block.
Larry, the art teacher, sees me. He is one of the regulars and offers me a seat and a sandwich. I decline the seat but accept the sandwich. I calculate that I have no time to sit and if I did I wouldn’t want to sit here. A few familiar faces throw wayward waves my way. They never invite me to join them. Maybe they sense that I don’t want to be part of that gossip gang or maybe they just don’t like me. Larry yanks his black messenger bag off the table. His latest drawing peeks through the zipper. We chomp, dropping bits of egg salad on our way up the grubby staircase. In the distance, a trumpet is warbling Pomp and Circumstance. I pop my head into the band room to check in on Camila. She is almost always in there pecking away at the piano.
“Mia. How’s the monologue coming?” Immersed in a melody floating from her fingertips, she does not hear me. Clarinets squawk, drums bang, flutes wheeze. Kids lean against backpacks devouring pizza, globs of cheese filling holes in the beige carpet. Still starving I wander to the vending machine across from the defunct swimming pool. Decommissioned as part of a long-forgotten highly temporary short-term budget cut. Curious I clamber under a chain across the door to bear witness to crumbling Izmir tile, cracked Terrazzo marble, and decades of grit glommed onto the Victorian crystal chandeliers suspended above what used to be.
Larry strolls into the band room and leans on the piano. “Hey, Mia.” She snaps out of her trance.
“Hey, Mr. Kimmel. What do you think so far?” She plays a piece from her new composition. The notes sail across the hallway where I am transfixed behind shackles in the doorway beneath broken candelabras as the bell rings.