Wednesday July 11, 2018
One day conceivable from here, from now, from everything that I know,
I will hold a tiny, living thing in my arms and I will feel this great love…
The one everyone talks about
the changing kind, the one that gently nudges, inspires, forces you into bearing witness
Each moment between now and then is a teacher
I will want this when I have gotten good at turning the love inward
At being a witness to myself
And there is much to see. This life has been long already, the one before this one longer still, I imagine, and it is going going
I would very much like to give a tiny, living thing, my heart beat in excess
I want to give everything away when I know I don’t need to hold onto anything I’ve gotten but a tiny, living thing
Everything of use to me is being shown to me from the inside out and the whole world knows it
At least it does if I give permission to the whole world to be within me
Last night I felt a connection with a tiny, living thing
that did not burst forth from my own joy,
but was able to recognize it
We rocked there, our heads touching
and that was enough for me to know
Wednesday October 25, 2017
from Swing Low
I told you. She expressly insisted that I make no special concession! Yes, yes, I know that she’s my daughter but she articulated in her own words that she wants me to treat her as I would any other student. Mr. Black. You must listen to me. I know that defacing school property results in two weeks of detention, and probation for the rest of the year. Elizabeth is old enough to know better. I’ve already apologized for her behaviour, as I would with any of my students, but she must take responsibility for her actions. This has gone too far! Mr. Black. Please don’t look at me like that. Please.
Tuesday June 20, 2017
From an email
Mr. Bolton sang at the open mic with his two sons. My sister and I did, too, and we were better, at least that’s what people said. He taught Physics. I wasn’t any good at physics. My sister was, so sometimes I copied her work from six years prior. He hadn’t changed his lesson plans. I still feel guilty about that sometimes and then I remember how hard I worked on the things I actually cared about it and I let it go. The open mic’s happened a few times a year, and my sister and I would practise for the weeks leading up, choosing songs, sorting harmonies, layering instruments.
Sunday March 19, 2017
from a contract
There was a scrawny boy, from my teaching days, who used to come into my office for extra help on his map reading at recess. He was very worried that he wasn’t picking up on the navigation unit as comfortably as the other children so I worked with him as best as I could and showed him plenty of examples. He seemed to always wear that same confused face even after I felt I had made things very clear. I tried not to get frustrated that he’d come in every day to work on the unit that everyone else had figured out with relative ease. I asked him one day if he thought coming in to see me was helping him. That’s when he told me he had understood the whole time but was afraid of recess because of Tyler, who sometimes tripped him while he ran.
Wednesday February 1, 2017
from a voice memo
He asks if I like it like he wants me to say no. Asking me at all automatically gets a no. Am I not showing you? Am I not putting my whole thing into it? I want to tell him that “no” I don’t, but keep making these sounds and see if he is listening to my mouth or to my body. If he were he wouldn’t have to ask–as if there’s some kind of rubric for me to fill out: The student was sufficient. The student was timid. The student showcased strong grasp of concepts. The student handed in his assignment early but did not get extra marks because, though he finished, it wasn’t done to the best of his ability.
Tuesday July 5, 2016 at Starbucks
In Search of Agamemnon
Bruce F. Fairley
Cut to me, 4 years old–MAYBE 5– and all the tiny humans in Mrs. Beliveau’s class have just come back from an assembly. We don’t have enough time to learn anything, not that we really ever did, so Mrs. B. tells us we can play on the structure if we can change as quickly as possible into our gym clothes. I see no one is on the structure and for some reason today I need to be the first one. So I strip down and throw on my shirt and I go running up to Mrs. Beliveau to ask her if I may “board the spaceship” (because we were in kindergarten and that’s what we called it, even though it looked nothing like a spaceship)and she looked down at me and said, “you may, as soon as you have some pants on.” And I looked down and I was standing there in my orange-starred underwear, in front of everyone, made to be aware of shame for the first time in my tiny life. I did whatever Macaulay Culkin got hired for in Home Alone then proceeded to die in slow motion; my face a shade of fire that burned me to death.
Friday June 3, 2016
The Intent To Live
My laziness smells like a scab
Like the way a bad avocado tastes
Like the way tomorrow
My laziness was
By a good teacher
Who wanted me
To do well
When I confessed that I
Didn’t start the things
That I meant to start
That I waited for
I thought I was
Calling out my own flaws
Before anyone else could get
The chance to
She told me that
It wasn’t laziness
That kept me
It was the fear
Of wanting a thing that didn’t want me back
But the sound of it
Saturday February 20, 2016
from an e-mail
I didn’t want to hand in a piece of shit and to be honest that was exactly what I was doing because once again I didn’t do the proper thing of giving myself enough time to complete an assignment.
I wish I was better at keeping my shit together but for some reason mine is the type that crumbles upon contact like a gluten free brownie and then it’s everywhere and there’s a huge mess so it’s better not to touch that shit in the first place because its disaster is a bit unpredictable. These days.
So as I was shaming myself for becoming a useless sack of wasted potential, hearing my mother’s voice ringing in my ear saying “you see you do very well even when you don’t try but imagine if you only applied yourself once in awhile you could be thriving honey really thriving,” I start formulating a half smile that depicts my insides as accurately to my English Lit teacher as humanly possible.
“I’d rather accept the consequences than try and prolong the inevitable again so here it is in all its tarnished glory and tied with a stupid little punctual bow.”
Sunday January 24, 2016
from the front of a flyer
I heard on the news today that two more kids were shot in their front yard.
They were selling lemonade.
I don’t know how I’m supposed to wake up every morning, drink my coffee, put on my suit, go into schools and teach young people how to measure the angles of an isosceles triangle, or that just because our country allows people to carry firearms that it doesn’t make it okay to use them, or that these two smiling babies were still warm from their mother’s womb, being watched from the kitchen window by that same love–looking down for just one second to pull a splinter out of her thumb.
I don’t know how any of us do it. Keep living on repeat like we don’t see what’s happening in our world, right outside our houses, hitting closer and closer to home each time. I don’t know how any of us leave the safety of our sheets each and every day and find a new version of brave to wear for the day.
Saturday October 31, 2015
The pack of gum
Reggae bleeds out of Oli’s headphones and I take them off his ears. “What are you doing?” He looks at me like I smell of something putrid.
“I’m listeninggg.” He draws out the “g”.
“No music in detention, Oli, you know that.” He glares at me. I want to slap him but of course I don’t. Of course I say,
“I’m sure you’ve got some homework or something?” He doesn’t respond.
Oli transferred from a school in the West End at the beginning of the semester. Rosie said that his father was killed in an accident at work. “He was a roofer,” she said, lipstick on her front teeth, voice lowered as one has to do in the staff room at lunch. “He fell off a roof and apparently he just went, “splat”.”
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
from the Canada Arts Council Application Guidelines
I walk up and down the aisles in my classroom. There are two. I stop at my desk and take a sip of green tea. Kathy said I had to quit coffee if I wanted to live past seventy, so I did. Green tea. It’s good for you and you basically get the same buzz. I see Leanne cheating. I get a knot in my gut the size of a cantaloupe. Shit shit shit shit shit. I pretend to turn away and pray that none of the other kids notice. I know that her Dad just got out of jail and her mother’s probably still fucking Jeremy Santana. I feel so bad for her. Leanne. Beautiful Leanne.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Hey Andrews One and Two, quit your yammering. I mean it this time. Whatever you think you’re getting away with, you won’t. I’ve seen kids like you in my day, don’t think you can fool me. It’s not that I don’t respect your attempts, because believe me, I do. But they just won’t work on me. Now you two boys may appear to be just whispering, and probably about who is going to stick that rock up his nose first, but I can see right through you and I know your little game. This is not my first rodeo, so to speak, and you’re not my first broncos! I’ll tell you something, the things kids will do to get out of nap time! There was once an Andrew in my very own kindergarten class. He stuck a pebble so far up his nose he had to go to the hospital and have it surgically removed. Now he missed nap time, alright, but that image is ingrained in my memory for all time!
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
sammy’s got the glimma glimma gimme something that tastes like
alphabet alphabet past possessive french class math class biology
coffee spill wipe it up
sammy’s got a hangover smell rum on his breath
his mummy’s got a new lover gasoline under his nails
wipe a tear off sammy’s cheek
lick it to make it go away
down down way down down
sammy’s in the office with a tummy ache
too many timbits
too much ache all the way to texas
Saturday February 14, 2015
An explanation from the 506 TTC driver
It’s hard to think of him differently after all those years. I mean, hey, yeah, my dad spent the first half of my life as a cook in a greasy diner. He lived for that place. I don’t know anyone else who has been brought to tears over a perfectly poached egg, but he sure has. And sometimes it was hard, and sometimes we thought he was going insane as many kitchen people do, but at the end of the day, when he’d come home smelling like smoked meats and the deep frier, he’d have a smile on his face.
Then, all of a sudden, my dad decided he wanted to be a teacher. Just like that, no real discussion about it, just this is it, I used to cook in a diner and now I want to be responsible for educating the youth of this fine country. I had never seen my dad in a suit before, or anything other than an apron for that matter. We all wondered where a man with barely even a high school diploma would start.
Saturday June 21, 2014 at MAKE
a postcard at MAKE coffee+stuff
Hadn’t thought about Missy since last winter when I remembered how much she loved the cold. She somehow disappeared from my life and my mind quicker than she came into it. Them. Both things, in which she was sort of a permanent resident. A fixture. A thing that made me crazy and wild and irrational. She was always going on about getting the right jacket and then just sucking the rest of it up. I told her I had grown up in the cold and ‘sucking it up’ was just not enough. She said if you’re going to complain just move already! And then I understood what everything in the world meant. Something about not wishing for things that are outside of you or wanting things that aren’t in front of you. We choose everything. We choose the temperature we stay in, we choose the people we spend time with, we choose to love or not love someone. We choose to be happy. Missy had that fully realized and she was living it. She chose me one second and the next something else. I’m still alive. I missed her for a while. But I understood that right now is something different from right now every time the second hand on the clock shifts right. Then I thought about getting a really proper jacket and just sliding down some snow hills face first. Cause, you know, choices.
Saturday April 12, 2014
A can of Magners
When he makes his way back into the classroom, the letter “F” has fallen from the felted alphabet that’s pinned up above the blackboard. He wonders if its a sign. “F” for “Failure”. “F” for “Fucked”.
He hadn’t meant to do it. But he had. The rumours circled faster than vultures to a dead deer.
“He’s a fat fag! Look at that fat faggy nasty ass face!” He’d walked in, just before Jay punched Alfonso in the nose. More blood. More broken. He’d seen it since September, one thirteen-year-old picking on the other, bullying the other, rallying the other eighth graders with the power of an army general. He’d been patient. He’d dutifully given detentions and sent home notes. He’d even called in Jay’s father for a meeting. He’d been stood up.
He moved faster than he knew he could. He pulled one boy off of the other, face covered in tears and snot. He threw all one hundred and three pounds of Jay Eiserman up against the wall. The inspirational quote calendar fell to the floor. “You lay a hand on Alfonso again, you little shit, and I’m gonna kill you.” Jay dropped to the floor, rage shooting from his eyes. He ran to the Principle.
Friday April 4, 2014
from a receipt
I was thinking about it all morning. It was a stupid math one, and I should have gotten it right with ease. Ease. I was good at math up until, what, grade five? Fucking graphs, you know? And ever since then it’s been downhill. I used to win fucking awards for my math. Like class-room accolades and shit. I used to get those lollipops. You know? We’d play around the world with our times tables, and I’d beat every single kid in my class, even the smart ones, and then I’d get a lollipop. I used to win so many times I could have opened a tuck shop at my desk and made 25 cents on each kid. See. Math. It’s all confidence anyway. Did you know that? I mean, sure, reading takes confidence, and whatever, Art. But math. It’s a skill you develop just by being confident enough to develop it. You have one bad teacher tell you you’re worth even a little less than you are, and you just learn to believe that crap. It’s one of those things that keeps coming back to bite you in the ass too. You know, taxes, and leaving tips, and getting the right change back from the damn Wal-mart clerk. Did she even finish high school? I don’t know. Does she assume I’m good at math because most people are at least able to calculate the simple stuff in their heads, and therefore this clerk works harder to be good herself so she doesn’t look like she’s trying to dupe a smart math guy? I don’t know. Maybe she thinks that because she’s bad at math, then I must also be bad at math.
Could have won a fucking car today. Fucking math.
Friday March 14, 2014
Nelu’s Birthday Card
When I welcome baby Preston I will tell him, “you’re little and I’m big, so that makes me the boss of you!” He will laugh at all my jokes and tell me I’m his favourite sister with his eyes, and we’ll both giggle cause I’m his only sister! I will take him for walks and introduce him to Mr. Andrews who rakes our lawn, and Mrs. Edwards who helps us cross the street with her bright yellow vest. Then when the grass is dry, I will take him to the park and show him what the sun really looks like! I will feed him chunks of bread dipped in Cheese Wiz, and he will make sure the flies don’t land on our stuff by drooling everywhere! I know baby Preston will drool because my Mommy told me so! She said, “He will drool as much as you did,” and I drooled a lot! Baby Preston is supposed to come from Mommy’s tummy in exactly one week from right now. If he doesn’t show up at 2:22 PM, he will be late for his first big appointment. I will teach him how to always be on time and run when Mommy or Daddy calls him. Sometimes you think you’re already running very fast, but I will show him that he should always run fastest before dinner.
Wednesday February 12, 2014
the bag of ketchup chips
When you get here, you’re trying to stay positive. You think that maybe you’re going to find yourself, or God, or at least a love for push-ups. You don’t think about the cravings – for your mother’s Jerk Chicken, for your wife’s blow jobs, for a ride on an empty subway. My first night in, Mickey tried to take me under his wing, tried to show my the ropes… or whatever. I told him to “back off” and he did. Must have been the tone of voice I used because I don’t swear or anything. Second night in, Joaquin watched me for awhile and then said, “I heard you’re a teacher. You wanna teach my somethin’ nice?” I told him if he wanted to brush up on fractions, sure. Everything else was off of the table. First visiting day, my wife brought me a note from one of my students. It said, “I hope you’re having a nice sabbatical in The Dominican. We really miss you.”
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
The Art of Pantomime
Modesty. Timidity. Humility. Respect. Heart. Bravery. Willingness. Vulnerability. Awake. Bravery. Hunger. Fear. Joy. Laughter. Ferocity. Understanding. Unknown.
Whenever he sits to meditate, on his red, round cushion, he finds himself doing word association. He doesn’t admit this to his teacher. He says, “sometimes I have trouble clearing my mind…” His teacher nods. His teacher says, “The goal is not clearing the mind, it is treating the thoughts as waves on the ocean.”
It’s windy. There are whitecaps. The canoe bobs like a buoy. He’s seasick. He sees a killer whale.
Saturday, September 28, 2013
Alligator Party Rental form
“You’re a very lucky girl, Rachel,” he says, “I don’t think you know how lucky you are.” And she does… But she doesn’t. She does in her candy floss brain. She doesn’t in her crumpled newspaper heart. Rachel made a sculpture out of clay of a woman on her back, legs lifted high. “What is that?” her mother asked. “A woman,” said Rachel. “What in God’s name is she doing?” her mother squeaked. “She’s getting ready to give her daughter an airplane ride,” Rachel sighed, looking out the window of the station wagon and thinking how she so wished Mrs. Rosa was her mother. Mrs. Rosa wore pink lipstick and plaid pants. Mrs. Rosa’s first name was… Annette. Rachel had never heard such a beautiful name. Mrs. Rosa knew how to make meringues and how to shoot a three-point-shot on the basketball court. “Rachel!” her mother hooted, “are you even listening to me?” Rachel imagined rolling her mother into a ball of plasticine and throwing her across the corn field.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul
Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jeff Aubrey, Mark & Chrissy Donnelly
He was sweating. His forehead was shiny like a brass bowl. “Where’d you get that… outfit?” He asked. “A friend.” I said and that was the truth. I’d met Pollyanna after seeing her perform, I went and introduced myself and I said, “Hey, you ever teach someone how to do that?” Pollyanna kissed me on the mouth and said, “Uh huh.” I asked her if she was free on Thursday and she said, “Friday.” I went down to her house on Friday morning. A funny time, the morning, to be taking off your clothes. “Have to pick up my boys at one for lunch,” she said, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to think. I wondered, for the first time, what I was getting myself into. She lives in a nice part of the city, with colourful semi-detached houses, all in a row. A bakery on the corner of her street smelled like cinnamon and lemon. The “boys”? Turns out she has seven-year-old twins. Identical. I wore my best undies and my best bra. Unfortunately they didn’t match. She said that the trick was to think like you are the most alluring and mysterious woman in entire world. I could get used to that.
Thursday, May 30, 2013
rebar: modern food cookbook
Audrey Alsterberg and Wanda Urbanowicz
Well, since we’ve learned our times tables we should be able to multiply! We should be able to do the longest division! We should be able to eat doubles and triples of both peas and juniper berries alike! Since we’ve learned addition and subtraction, we should be able to see that adding one tablespoon of teethmarks and taking away two molars with a simple yank or two gives the perfect love bite! Since we’ve learned about velocity and geometry, theories of physics and biology, since we waded into tide-pools with starfish and romance, we now know that there is a Higher Power, a Supreme Governing Spirit… Call it what you will, Doctors of Life, call it what you will, some things simply cannot be explained. Let us sit, in silence, for thirty three minutes, oh, the divinity of the number three. Let us sit and pay homage to the Sun and the Moon and Jupiter! Let us pay homage to the rules and the questions and the non-answers!
Sunday, March 17, 2013
She smells like tangerines. You instantly love her. If you showed me that love I would keel over in laughter (and, maybe, tears), I would keel over in gratitude to God. “You smell like onions and tuna fish, Mom,” is what I get. First Grade Teacher love, okay. I get it. She smells like tangerines, she gives you yellow happy face stickers when you do well on a spelling test, she’s the one who is telling you that you’re smart, you’re creative, you’re special. “Miss Fleck says that it’s going to be an early spring!” You come home with a crepe paper flower crown on your head. “Miss Fleck says that we should give away half our Halloween candy to the Sugar Fairy!” You do, incredibly, with the self-restraint of a monk. Right down the garbage shoot. “Miss Fleck says that even though there’s that war on terror going on, everything is going to be all right!” You are smiling, one of your front teeth wobbling so much I can’t help but smile too. Miss Fleck, bright blue eyes and short cropped hair, I am glad that you are teaching my boy. Tangerines. Ha.
Sunday March 2, 2013
East Of Eden
Bobby Bicklestein wasn’t sure how he felt about his new Grade Six teacher, Miss Asha. Number one, he had had a raging crush on Mrs. Hill, who’d gotten knocked up and had to depart after Christmas holiday. Miss Asha, first name Asha, second name Khan, was too young to be teaching almost-teenagers. She didn’t look a day older than twenty two. Also, why should they call her by her first name, but with an obligatory “Miss” in front? Progressive in the worst possible way, thought Bobby. Progressive in the same way that their desks were arranged in circular “pods” and not the common rows, which Mrs. Hill had always paced with grace and a smile. Miss Asha said that she was born in Egypt. Bobby imagined her climbing pyramids and riding Sphinx as a little girl. He was a bit envious, but never would have told a soul. She wore a scarf over her head which Bobby desperately wanted to pull off. Mike MacPherson asked, on their first day back in the New Year, “If we aren’t allowed to wear hats Why don’t you have to take off your head-dress-thing?” Everyone snickered and a few of the girls blushed. Leave it to Mike. Miss Asha said, in her quiet voice, in her “I’m the boss now, suckerz” voice, “I wear a hijab, Mike. It is a symbol of modesty in my religion.” She didn’t smile. She walked over to Mike and continued, “I would like you to research the hijab for tomorrow so that the whole class can understand a bit better. Please prepare a five minute presentation.” Mike rolled his eyes when she turned her back. Bobby sat behind Mike. He poked him with the eraser end of his pencil. “I hate her, too,” he said, when Mike turned around.
Wednesday February 6, 2013
Women of Manhattan
John Patrick Shanley
She was a meanie, Mrs. Appleton. She wore big red sneakers and I HATED THEM. Why would a woman her age wear sneakers for children and try to teach a classroom OF children? Obviously it was so she could “get on our level” but I saw right past it, yes I did. She was a loser. THERE. MRS. APPLETON WAS A LOSER. One of those ‘failure at life’ types. She tried, boy did she, but it wouldn’t win us over because we were smart. Such a meanie. Just one of those people who would give Donnie Kits a C just because she didn’t like that he was chewing gum during his history presentation. And once, when I was trying to be ARTISTIC, I ripped the edges of my pastel tree drawing so it would look like the EARTH, she completely made fun of me in front of the whole class and told us all that it was lazy and we should learn to use scissors like adults. I HATED HER THEN. And you’d be sitting there, just minding your own business, just working on multiplication tables, and really for the first time understanding the 9 times tables, when all of a sudden, squeak squeak. There she was behind you, Mrs. Appleton and her snarled up lip and her squeaky too young for her red sneakers. She’d make you feel like you were doing something wrong just by BREATHING on you. And her breath. Ugh! Even her breath was mean!