But Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.
He lived happily ever after.
– Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory
I had a hell of a teaching week last week. Things were not going in my classroom how I wanted them. Students were behaving outside of my classroom, and perhaps in it, in ways that disappointed me. This coupled with the fact that we remain a district with an interim superintendent, a principal who leaves in two weeks, and no contract to speak of, well let’s just say there was some drinking done last weekend.
Also, my students got the business from me a time or two in the last week. At the end of one of my self-righteous lectures. . . A student raised her hand, politely, as she was sure I could still bite.
“Ms. B, have you ever thought of recording those rants, they sound a whole lot like poems”.
Sigh. Oh man, have they got me pegged. So for five days I had a poem brewing in me that I couldn’t get out — and then I walked into open mic night with a handful of poems to read, some OPP (other people’s poetry, you dirty minded children of the nineties). I hadn’t gotten half way in the door, when one of the poets I respect the most, called my name from across the cafe. I gave him a hey, and he said he wanted to chat. I’ve been throwing around this idea of getting poets into my classroom, so I figured it was about that.
But no, what happened, was he offered me my own set at a poetry night next month. He’s hosting these monthly poetry gigs, where four poets each do fifteen minutes of their own work, and, um he asked me. I asked him, if he was sure.
Later when a friend poet would tell me, “you’ve got material, don’t be so humble,” I responded,
“I don’t think it’s humbleness, more self-loathing.”
“Eh, don’t act like they’re not the same thing.”
So, he offered me a gig, a legit poetry gig. Not me showing up and hoping I’m good enough — a thing, a thing that will mean my name on an eight and half by eleven flyer. Look, maybe I’m glowing right now… maybe I’m bragging, maybe I’m not being even a little bit humble… but when shit goes the way shit goes in my life . . a poetry gig is just what I freakin’ need.
So Tuesday. Tuesday after such things were offered, I knew that night I couldn’t be down with OPP (poetry people, other people’s poetry). And so, after getting myself on the list, ordering a bite, and waiting for the open mic to begin, I shook this shit out of the cobwebs –
Will This Be on the Test?
I have become concerned-
that you have all gone numb inside.
That school is but six hours of being
moved from desk to desk.
But Ms. B, we like you, we do-
but this is so-
Trans. . cend. . ental. . ism.
I mean who names their kid Waldo?
But, people it’s the first American,
I mean, truly American philosophy,
your own drummer.
I am concerned-
that I spend more time
breaking up your fights
than teaching you things
Ms. B, they’re just playful fights.
You know we like each other.
But, you’re wasting our time.
Ms. B, will this be on the test?
The test? You mean the one that
you get issued every day in life-
the one that wants to know how you think,
and learn, and question, and love,
The one that wants to know if there
is one minute spark left in you?
Yes – this will be on the test.
Ugh, what is guy saying?
Why do we read this?
Why do we read this?
Why do we read about love,
and jealousy, and pain, and war,
and wit and revenge, and in general,
the human condition?
Because you are alive,
and Billy Shakes is writing about you.
Alright kiddos, settle down,
today I’m going to read you some poetry-
-Aww Ms. B, I hate poetry
-it’s just terrible – all those-
trees and daffodils,
and you’re going to want to know what they symbolize.
If you cut my wrists right now,
I would bleed cadence, and rhythm,
and metaphor on this very floor-
You could open my chest to see
stanzas and couplets, and sonnets,
moving in time.
And this, this is my concern.
They say the zombie apocalypse is coming,
but my students, it is already here.
The beating of your hearts have been replaced
by the thud of commerce
Your brains, programmed only for
the next click of the mouse.
Entertain us. Entertain us.
I am. Concerned.
Dear Ms. B –
Brave – Brave is what you taught me
-and to care, and sometimes, to love-
And I know the world can be changed.
Ms. B, don’t be concerned, we will be just fine.