Sunday, January 31, 2010
My fantasy poem, "The Green Man," will be published in Volume 2, Number 2, this April.
It is a piece I wrote when I was studying abroad at Oxford, and I have always really liked it.
I can't include it here because they have the rights to its first publication, but I will include a poem I wrote earlier this school year when contemplating what is wrong with so many of my high school students.
It's a wonderful angry poem. Angry poetry is the most fun to write, but it doesn't always turn out so well.
Cramping Your Style- September, 2009
So you had a kid.
Maybe you didn't "plan" for that to happen,
or maybe you did because you wanted a friend.
Or you wanted your boyfriend to stay with you.
Or you were bored.
Did you think it would be like raising a puppy?
So your kid gets tired and cranky.
You ask the television to babysit it.
Or you buy it video games,
That way, you don't have to deal with it.
You can live you life; the kid can't cramp your style.
So your kid has problems.
Maybe it was the alchohol you drank when you were pregnant.
Or maybe the cigarette smoke it grew up breathing in place of air.
Or the lack of stimulation as an infant.
Or the fact that you yell or command instead of talking to it.
Did you think this wouldn't happen to you?
So your kid can't concentrate in school.
You get mad when its teachers can't fix it.
Or you yell at it.
Or you ship it off to live with your parents.
That way, you don't have to take responsibility.
That way, you can live your life; your kid can't cramp your style.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Since my husband and I became married four years ago, I have been fighting the maternal-you-must-have-a-baby-right-now-or-you-will-explode urges that many newly married women feel once they are established in their new home with a caring husband. For many logical, personal reasons, we have been putting off having children for the time being. However, no matter how many persuasive, factual logical arguments I can make to myself for waiting to have a child, that doesn’t change the fact that my body and my hormones most certainly want to reproduce.
At first, I tried to imagine that they were bonding with us. I would raid PetCo and PetsMart for any toys or treats that I thought they might respond to. I talked to them; I sang to them, I spent hours trying to “socialize” them. I let them run free in an enclosure on the floor. I wrote an entire 13 chapter children’s book about Donner and Macie’s adventures. I imagined that they had far more depth than I could actually see.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
When the limelight turns on, I stand in the center with a clear plastic pitcher.
I pour out my heart like lemonade (sour and sweet) and I serve it to the crowd in those little dixie cups,
and they sip a little, and toss out the rest as they walk out the door.
They walk together and say, "pretty good," "decent," "fairly good beginning," "that was a start."
When the limelight turns off, I stand in the center- all by myself, with an empty pitcher.
They thought my heart was mediocre.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
It might also have been a little too sarcastic for them.
A Fundraising Horror Story
The State of California has worked hard to make becoming and remaining a teacher difficult. To become a teacher, you must spend four years in college for your Bachelor’s degree, and two for your credential. Then, they give you a “preliminary” credential, which means they’ll let you into the classroom, but they won’t act very happy about it.
After you enter the classroom, they take the brand new teachers who are completely swamped and send them to seminars before, during, and after school. This takes up their nonexistent free time for two years in a program which they call, “BTSA,” which, in my opinion, stands for “Beginning Teacher Suffering and Attrition.” This is to toughen you up and to weed out any teachers who haven’t decided to make their career more important than their mental health. If you make it through BTSA, you have earned your “clear” credential, which tells the world that after eight years of education, you’re finally a real teacher.
However, in all of those years of training, there is one very important topic that no class ever discusses. It is a topic that can reduce a competent, well-trained professional teacher into a sniveling pathetic invertebrate. It’s the “F” word.
That’s right, it’s fundraising. Now, in years past, drama, choir, and other programs could always make the students sell candy. All a student had to do was walk into a packed classroom or teacher’s lounge and immediately the other people in the room would think, “Mmmm…fat and sugar; I want to buy some!” In minutes, the customers would swarm the candy-bearing youngster and they would have money to either bring back to the teacher, or at the very least, to lose in their locker, forcing their parents to reimburse the teacher.
A few years ago, the State of California decided that these time-honored traditions were no good. For one thing, they actually worked. For another, too many students and parents were apparently getting fat while the extra-curricular activities were making money.
So, the state in its infinite wisdom, decided to place health restrictions on the sort of food students could sell for fundraisers. Now to be fair, the State of California didn’t completely cut out selling food on public school campuses. They allow for four food sale days per year. As the advisor for the Drama club, I decided to jump on this chance and get my kids out there to sell taquitos.
On the morning of the food sale day, I left the house around 5:45 AM. I loaded my car with two crock pots and some baking trays. I drove to Vons to buy some expensive guacamole and sour cream. I then dragged an ice chest full of frozen taquitos and toppings to the refrigerator in the teacher’s lounge and deposited them there before I began my full day of teaching on the other side of the school.
During my class period with no students, I rushed over to the home-economics classroom, which Pat Smith graciously allowed me to use, and began baking the taquitos. I still had another period to teach before lunch, and right when the lunch bell rang, I sprinted back over to the home-economics room, where I was supposed to meet my Drama Club students.
By the time we headed out to the grassy area where the food sale was, ten minutes of our thirty minute lunch had already gone by. I noticed to my surprise that FFA was already doing a brisk business, selling fully cooked hamburgers, chips and sodas to a gigantic line of students. Now, FFA has been around a long time- they know the true meaning of how to fundraise, and they had got us completely beaten. They had claimed all but one table, which looked as if it were one its last leg. They had apparently been cooking and setting up since way before lunch, while I was still wasting time teaching my 4th period class.
I began to see the smiles on my Drama students’ faces falter. “Mrs. Hughes, is that our table? It looks really unsafe,” piped up one little darling. I merely nodded and gave the student some tape to stick a sign on the wooden danger. The wind was blowing and no matter where we tried to set our napkins or tape our sign, it kept catching them and blowing them away.
Somehow, 15 minutes into our 30 minute lunch, we managed to sell a few taquitos. Things almost looked as if we might break even when one of the students started gasping in horror. I looked down at our table just in time to see the legs of it collapse as it fell to the grass and sent napkins, guacamole, and taquitos flying through the air.
One of the many skilled FFA students ran over to see if we needed help, and I watched my drama club members desperately trying to get the table back up on its legs and see if we could salvage anything. That was when the bell rang and lunch was over. I somehow had to get all the taquitos, the crock pot, the ice chest, and the toppings back to the teacher’s lounge and then arrive at my classroom on the other side of the school before the next period began. I honestly don’t remember how I did it. The rest of the day is sort of fuzzy in my mind.
FFA, you can fundraise at the next food sale day. I will bring my Drama Club, and you can sell us your delicious looking hamburgers, chips, and sodas. If you have figured out how to make a profit in a 30-minute lunch, you deserve our business.
The seed was planted in me almost before I remember.
Its then-tiny hair roots spread gently through the soft childish soil in a corner of my heart.
For some years it grew, a tiny sapling,
Watered and cared for by my mother and father.
Then the day came when the leaves on its two thin branches unfurled and tiny
Bud-like fruits appeared,
And I began to try to water it myself.
But the only water I could find was brackish, and the weeds in the soil were ensnaring
I tried to beat them back, and I wore myself weary trying to find good water.
The weeds wrapped themselves around the plant’s roots and many tendrils atrophied.
I felt sure that the plant would die and I despaired.
But the seed had come from such strong stock that the tap root simply waited, until the
Weeds eventually disappeared.
To my amazement, the tree grew taller even though I could not find good water,
and its roots spread many, many feet through the soil.
I am not sure when I stopped trying to water the tree myself.
But at some point, the roots had tapped into the Water of Life.
And slowly, the roots have brought the Water of Life to me.
I could not remove the tree now if I tried, because its roots are so deeply imbedded in the
now-adult soil of my heart.
I am not sure where the tree begins and where my heart ends.
I rest in the shade of its branches and drink from the spring that has appeared at its
I have often noticed that the tree, which is now mighty, with heavy fruit, has
grown into the unmistakable shape of a cross.
After I have shaved and deodorized and sprayed with perfume,
And wiped away all the traces of my humanity,
Then we can go and dance the night away,
Believing we are in love,
And you can enjoy the image of me,
Without the disgust of my humanity.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Did you know, my darling pet,
that there are kittens in the sea?
They sing a mewing mer-cat song,
They sing their song for thee.
They wish that you could play with them
And chase mer-mice in the waves,
That you could go exploring
And visit Mer-cat Caves.
Mer-cats look just like you,
But instead of feet, they have a tail,
Their whiskers are longer than their heads,
And their eyes look like a snail’s.
And every day the mer-cats
Lie out under the sea
In special mer-cat cat beds
Made of kelp, you see.
And did you know that mer-cats
Have mer-people for pets?
Mer-people swim to bring them fish
from special mer-cat nets.
But did you know, my darling pet,
that you will never get,
To visit mewing mer-cats,
And their under-water pets?
Because you’ll never place a paw
Anywhere near the sea.
You are terrified of water,
Though the mer-cats sing for thee.
Unfortunately, the publishing companies don't agree with her.Rejection letters all sound alike. I should know; I have quite a collection.
I think it's the subtext, the words read in-between the lines, that is most interesting.
They usually look like this:
(You are so insignificant we couldn't even put your name on this letter.)
Thank you for your submission to our literary magazine.
(Did we say thank you? We meant, 'Thanks for wasting our time!')
Unfortunately, your manuscript is not right for us at this time.
(We keep referring to it as 'manuscript' because we didn't actually read it. We use a truffle-hunting pig named Milton to sniff out the good submissions. Milton felt that your piece was too cliche'd.)
We regret that the high volume of submissions we recieve means that we can't in any way critique your work.
(We're going to reject you, but we won't tell you why! Good luck playing our evil guessing game.)
We also can't return your manuscript.
(We used your submission to line the bottom of the office hamster's cage. He died of indigestion a week later.)
Please consider subscribing to our magazine to help support writing such as yours.(We don't like you well enough to want your writing, but we will take your money!)
Our magazine will be closed to new submissions for the remainder of the year.
(Don't send us any more of your drivel ever again, you hack.)
(As sincere as a form letter we photocopied 5,000 times can be.)
Some Junior Editor
(We sent this one to the bosse's nephew. We also published 16 of his pieces last year. Don't you wish you knew someone in the publishing world?)
Sigh. Maybe my mother will start a publishing company.