husk words

dear readers

i have been reluctant to write.
perhaps you have noticed.

perhaps you have noticed that even when i’m writing, i’m not really writing. i’m not really there.
i mean, i am there, but the writing is not really there.
or, the words are there, but they are husks.

i think it has something to do with it being the 8th week (of a 10 week quarter. not any quarter, but spring quarter. the last of the academic year. my second year of grad school. my second year on a campus where it seems there is literally no place to get comfortable. except for some patches of grass sometimes. but even then, they are usually damp from the excessive waterings.)

yesterday, when i could barely drag my ass to school [how is it that moving my body from point A to point B can sometimes seem like the impossiblest thing?], instead of telling my students how tired i was, i congratulated them for showing up. consistently. i said you should give yourselves a round of applause for showing up. which is always a funny gesture. awkward. patting yourself on the back. giving yourself a hand. (i’m not a fan of these phrases. but i am a fan of the kind of gesture that says hey, badass self, i’m gonna celebrate  you right now for being here and being who you are.) and so they clapped. wearily. maybe even half-heartedly. or awkwardly. perhaps  they feel just as awkward about that phrase, give yourself a hand, as i do. but i took heart. hearing them laugh uninhibitedly later. feeling the presence and energy they always bring into the room. presence and energy which breaks through even the thickest of mondays. that presence is louder than any half hearted clap.

reader, maybe i am here tonight to tell you about my students. they are brilliant. and i am so proud of them. and then i do things that feel like a parenting moment where, later, i kinda hate  how i chose to respond in a certain moment. (like my frustration at the class when half of them didn’t bring in a print of their graphic novel cover designs for the midterm even though it was clearly stated in three thousand places. i felt bad for allowing them to see the disappointment in my slack face, my dropped shoulders. i felt bad for thinking pull your shit together, people! it was not a very empathetic thought. i felt bad for laying down the law. so bad that five minutes later i said i still like ya’ll. but this is serious-time…. deadlines… follow through. and the same part of me that doesn’t believe in grades wonders why i care so much about them doing what they are asked/required to do. perhaps because those things are also a form of showing up? and what do i want more in the world than for people to show up. whatever it is they’re doing. i want them to engage/be engaged. i recognize this can look all sorts of ways. and in fact, maybe they were so engaged in whatever they were doing over the weekend/before class that they forgot about the deadlines and requirements. maybe they just spent the past hour laying under a tree staring up at the shape of the branches against the blue blue sky and occasional cloud strands unraveling. maybe they were making out with their dates. maybe they were sleeping in. maybe they too were weighed down by death this week. the demands of college are often so inhuman because they require the devaluing, the dismissing of the importance of such moments. so maybe next time half of the class shows up without their work, we can do a go around aboutwhat they were doing instead of printing out their homework. so at least we can delight in the other forms of presence they were engaging in.

this quarter i’ve struggled with not being able to plan for section until i am on the shuttlebus hurtling towards the great sprawl of an institution named ucsd. the procrastination has become that bad. but momentum/motion/movement lends itself to thinking. and i show up with a usually well-constructed map for us to follow or take apart. even if it was only 30 minutes of planning while sitting over the wheelwell with the amtrack tracks to my right and mission bay throwing the sun back to sky on my left. i still brought myself. i still brought my ideas. my work. i bring it. and apparently i consider bringing it part of an interdependent model. my bringing it depends on their bringing it and vice versa.

i lost it when, after preparing my students to pair up and offer feedback  about each other’s work (with sample questions posted on the screen at the front of the classroom), x [who spent most of that time chatting with the classmate next to her] asked what are we doing when it came time for her to choose her partner.  in this case, losing it looked like giving an exasperated raised eyebrow and waiting for her to look around and find the details that would help her answer her own question.

i also lost it when, last week, we were talking about how edward curtis would make his indian subjects more vanishy by instructing them to shave or  handing them a headdress (or other items from his costume kit) to wear for his photos. x said, well i doubt curtis actually did that. to which i sparred back were you in lecture [when wayne elaborated on this exact point]? to which x said no. this kid, who is usually in the position of putting people in their place needed that kind of check. that kind of humbling. here, losing it was a kind of gloating. a kind of hah! a kind of touché  for a kid who is very perceptive but always thinks he’s right and doesn’t need to go to lecture because he doesn’t see how it’s related to the reading material.

readers, i also want to tell you how good it feels to laugh with them. all at once. big. loud. i want to tell you how we build the space together and how much it means to me that i feel comfortable throwing jokes out there. how amazing it is that there is space for me (that they’ve built) for me to be myself.

dear readers, i’d like to share an email from my poetry workshop professor:

subject: assignments

Dear 202 Students,
Going through my bag, I found that I have new poems from only four people: L, E, H, and
K. And I am missing two anthologies, H’s and B’s. You will need to get these things to me before the next class.

readers, i want to tell you how i don’t want to write that fucking poem. they are living far from me (the poems) right now. i don’t give a fuck about my poems existing in that (workshop) space. i don’t give a fuck about turning something in just to fulfill a requirement when i have been doing so every week and each one amounting to some form of failing. can’t i just have a free bingo square on this? especially after i did turn in this week: an imitation poem, reading a presenting on a poem from the book we read for the week, a 70 page anthology i compiled and 10 feedbacked poems for my classmates? is that not enough? you weren’t supposed to notice the absence of my shitty work. you weren’t supposed to make any effort to want to read another unfunctioning piece. did i mention that the only poem of mine you liked was the imitation piece i wrote last week when you disclosed that you were on vicodin for back pain which was making us all sound smarter to you. so how about this. here’s my poem for this week:

these battles. they are good. but they are tiring.

dear readers,
there are other things that today was made of
like saltsweat on my face, at my neck-nape in the garden. yanking weeds and hauling bricks.
like the sunflowers finally opening. petals yellow tongues licking sky.
like rainmist on my bikeride home after a studio visit. a studio/work space i might share with my melinda starting in the fall.
like the story of a twitching eye that may just have to do with muscles or a neurological disorder/situation that i am orbiting around trying to get closer to on each pass.
like chocolate cookies delivered by the bakery fairie.
like the story of avocado on toast with tomato slices for breakfast.
like how i didn’t want to ride my bike down that same old street (the street where i have to fight at at least three points to take over an entire lane so the cars don’t kill me) in order to sign something at the bank for our house account, so i got a ride with rachel and then we went for yogurt.
like how i get to looking up arizona boys ranch (a place someone i know spent time at) and learn of the death of nicholaus contreraz how i wrap him up and carry him
like how perhaps since the day i arrived in san diego, today is the first time i really recognize myself in the mirror.
[dear reader, if you have made it this far, a shower of gold star stickers spilling upon you that you may post on your charts of achievement for the day.]


3 Replies to “husk words”

  1. loper.
    it may not do any good to tell you that these frustrations, these student frustrations are the same ones we gave our teachers, in fact, in a different form are the manifestation of your not wanting to turn in the pretend poem, the under the bed with the bunnies poem. its a circle. and luckily, your poem is yourself.

  2. lia!!!!!!! right!? it’s funny being a student and teacher at the same time. hopefully my love for my students came across despite my recounting of the funny/weird bad moments…
    i miss you and the ocean!

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