Friday, December 14, 2012

Poetics: what a teacher does

Oil in a pan by Hilary

...twenty seven dead
& i've been
pulled from the classroom

'we know your background
& have one we need you to work with, he
may be a threat.'

the marbled emerald faux leather seat
sinks a bit deeper beneath my weight
in an awkward half hug from behind,
the sweat scent of the last kid that sat here
awaiting disposition

the wood desk littered with paperwork;
permission slips, detention referrals,
behavioral plans, ungraded papers & education
fits somewhere, the diploma on the wall acknow-
ledges it, a row of books full of the newest
ideas on how to make it work (or at least
get them to pass the state test) & a plastic plant
in the corner droops oblivious
no shell casings, yet

'we'll get you a walkie talkie just in case,
and when he goes off, and he will...
                        
                               call.'

a three inch folder in the third drawer
of the metal file cabinet carries a secret
history of where we've been & where
we go from here is

twenty eight dead as i walk the line
between educator & bodyguard, with
only 1200 kids to cover all at once,
not knowing which one might be pulling
the trigger next

a bird lands on the window sill
brown with orange breast, eyes us,
curious perhaps---the clock hand
falls hard into the new minute---
it flits off---gone---the bell rings
for class change

'alright,
let's do this.'

'Class, today we're learning...'

Over at dVerse Poets, I am tending pub tomorrow & we are talking about the use of detail to set a scene or create a character. I also have some incredible macro-photos from my friend Hilary that you can use as well that give some great detail (i will write another just for you Hilary to one of the pics). I included one just to get your brains turning. I will open the doors at 3 pm EST.

Well I am posting way early, still reeling from the events today...feeling for the families of the kids...listening to the kids talk about their experiences...I dunno what to say really other than to just pray for the families and wonder at how we got here.

110 comments:

黄清华 Wong Ching Wah said...

Reminded of the News from CNN this morning. Was and is still difficult to comprehend the tragedy today !

farmlady said...

Oh Brian. What a sad day. This could have been my grandson's school... a good teacher, principal, librarian, bus driver, teaching assistant, custodian,lunch lady,volunteer parent or my grandsons. What a sad commentary on our society.
Who is next?
"Class... today we're learning...
Sadness.

flaubert said...

Brian, this gave me chills. I wonder where we are going amidst all of these tragedies. I am having a difficult time processing all of this today. Good write my friend.

Pamela

Mama Zen said...

And, how do we teach when we're wondering where the shot might come from? And, how are kids supposed to learn? And, yes, how the hell did we get here?

Great write, Brian.

Hilary said...

Those poor, poor children.. staff.. families. My heart just aches.

Thanks kindly, Brian.

Whosyergurl said...

Thank you, Brian.
My son's girlfriend is a teacher. My daughter-in-law is a police officer. My little granddaughter will be two in March and I fear to send her to school. Can we live in a bubble?
We are all sick and sad.
Cheryl

Mary said...

Hard to read poem about a hard to think about event. Sad sad.

kaykuala said...

It's a sad day. Why one would want to end it all by insisting to snuff out young lives and adults as well. It's sick!

Hank

jane hewey said...

I am glad you are here, Brian.

Lady In Read said...

definitely still reeling from this tragedy today.. and these lines reminded me of something i was thinking too - hopefully this will make us more aware, more ready to recognize and help, and prevent such tragedies..
'we know your background
& have one we need you to work with, he may be a threat.'

Lorraine said...

You have such courage, such empathy....but you've done enough, although I can't say go find a safe job 'cause the world is crazy, but seems to me you always get the hardest part, and I add you to my prayers in the morning....

Cloudia said...

again. . . .




Consoling Weekend Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
~ > < } } ( ° >
> < } } ( ° >
> < 3 3 3 ( ' >

Dave King said...

Incredible post, both in its conception and its implications. As for the events of yesterday... I have no words... maybe they'll come --
Oh, just two: Gun Laws.

Claudia said...

...as i walk the line
between educator & bodyguard, with
only 1200 kids to cover all at once.... i can imagine how difficult it is to walk this line, esp. in the light of that last shooting, jus read about it in the news.. i love how you zoom in and out here, how you switch from what happens to what you think and the "random" details like the bird, landing on the window sill..makes us feel the scene even more

Valerie said...

We are in mourning here, Brian. It was such terrible news and the third of its kind this year. I fear for the future of mankind. Hug your kids and try to have a happy weekend ... for them.

Fred Rutherford said...

strong reaction. You're position as a teacher lends an enlightening point of view, much different than the talking heads on the news channels. Such a tragedy today and you handled it so well. Really powerful piece, love the bird metaphor at the end as well, stood out nicely. thanks

Mimi Foxmorton said...

Strong and touching.......

We have such a need for change......

I could go on...but I'll just send hugs.......

Mimi

my heart's love songs said...

i don't know how you do it... i don't know how the kids deal with the fear either... i can't.

Grace said...

Its been an emotional day & night for every parent Brian ~ You are in a unique position as you work in the classroom as a teacher, and before with troubled children ~

The part of the walk talkie makes my hair stand up...I hope we can learn love, forgiveness and acceptance ~

Grandmother said...

Brian, look for the depressed and angry adolescent and make sure he gets the help he needs so he doesn't need to act out his fury. And vote for gun control. And bless your heart for all you do already with these troubled young ones.

the walking man said...

We got here through a group who wants to have millions of dollars (NRA) by misinterpreting the 2nd amendment to the constitution. We got here through video games that not only tech accuracy but award more points for single shot head shots. We got here because we only care for a week then the parents are left to get through on their own.

If you really want to know how I feel about it then just ask.

SueAnn Lommler said...

Numb....
Hugs
SueAnn

rumoursofrhyme said...

Yesterday's events are a tragedy for everyone involved, and must have made a huge impact on so many other people who are now thinking "That could have been me/my children" etc.

As to how "we" got here - from this side of the Atlantic the answers seem obvious, but we don't have a full enough understanding of US culture, history and society to be able to comment accurately. However, a misunderstanding of the 2nd Amendment seems to be part of the trouble - does it say "the right to bear arms in a militia"? If so, then it simply states that US citizens have the right to take up arms against injustince and oppression - quite important when you were trying to gain your freedom from the Old Country.

Thanks for this poem Brian. It does what art is supposed to do, at least some of the time; it asks the questions that need to be asked, but gently, compassionately and with great skill.

Laurie Kolp said...

There are no words for this other than gut-wrenching... that it's come to this.

Luke Prater said...

Jesus. Fantastic detail - I like that you focussed not on the death and blood and gunshots so much as intricate detail of furniture, other stationary objects, etc... and this technique actually made the tragedy stronger in the piece. The peripheral focus nagging becomes the what we realise is the central theme. Seen through small details of the seemingly quotidian. Great write. Powerful, shocking.

Eva Gallant said...

This really grabbed me. So disturbingly real.

Daydreamertoo said...

How do you teach through your own and, their fear. We live in insane times which are getting worse by the day.
It may not stop all of the determined ones but, if the US had much better psychiatric profiling and proper background checks of people who want to buy guns legally it would help a bit.
Everyone shouts out about it's every Americans right to own a gun. Those laws were made 300 or so years ago, before anyone knew the people in this world would become so crazy. The criminals will always have guns but, real gun control would prevent a lot more of this type of horror. My heart aches for everyone there.
I know it's not the weapon that kills, people can use knives or, even hands if they want to murder someone but, these people who want to mass kill always choose a gun because they know for sure they'll kill a lot before they're stopped.
Your politicians need to ignore the F***ing gun lobby, unite, and make some new and stringent laws.
Need to open up the mental hospitals again and put the people who are mentally ill back into a hospital where they can be treated instead of wandering the streets alone and without help.
Other than that I don't know what the answers are. Some of society is falling apart and maybe it's all the violence they see now in movies and on TV and in XBox games and such, kids are becoming immune to horrific violence and life is becoming meaningless instead of the precious gift it is.
Sorry, I had to say all of this. I'm so angry that all of these people left there now are suffering so badly and, will for many years.
Everyone says:'Now is not the time to talk about changing the gun laws' It's a cop out...when is the time...how many kids have to die in more massacres before the parents of your country rise up and demand change,

Gloria said...

Im so sad still Brian so sad I cant stop thii.k in the kids in the parents in the teachers Omy I feel hurt.
You write a nice poem Brian.hope all of you are ok...blessings xo

manicddaily said...

No words. K

DJan said...

It's incredibly hard for every parent today. My heart breaks for those who have lost everything that ever mattered. Thank you for being a teacher, Brian, and for caring for those little ones.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah not even sure what to say
About such a tragic event yesterday
Society gone all to shit
Is basically the size of it
How does one teach indeed
Worrying about such a planted seed

Nessa said...

It is impossible to wrap ones mind around the situation.

Zuzana said...

Dear Brian, stopping by for my weekly visit, sorry that I can not make it more often.;)
Yes, even we here are shocked and appalled by the events in Connecticut, I guess this just reinforces the fact that something needs to be done about the gun control in the US...
Have a great weekend and a great week ahead dear friend,
xoxo

LadyCat said...

Praying here too. Too sad and tragic to comprehend.
A techer's job is SO much more than educating. Teachers are the most under appreciated profession. I know I could not handle it. Hats off to all the teachers who make a difference every day.
And prayers for all the children.

Gail said...

Wow! On both photo and words.

A horrible tragedy but they will ride this horse to death, seeing danger in innocence. And the innocent will continue to suffer because of one bad seed.

Kelvin S.M. said...

Brian, i can feel you here... the tragic incident recently really broke my heart... and until now i'm puzzled, still thinking of the incident... i am searching for reasons/ answers...i am not american but i sympathize... for what involves here were the lives of innocen, beautiful children suddenly, brutally & unreasonably taken away... now i am deeply concerned 'bout the increasing incidents of mass killing in schools in your country... and i am afraid for you Brian knowing you as a teacher too... you know anything could happen...anywhere... to anyone... i just wish that same tragedy won't happen anymore... and i am sending my prayers to all who died & grieving... may they find peace, hope & forgiveness in their heart... and Brian, just always keep safe...

Chantel said...

It seems harder to breathe today. As if grief has thickened the air, choking the sun from the sky. This was beautiful, Brian. It is a strange thing to find beauty within tragedy. I believe it is what saves us.

Perhaps fragility is the beginning of true love. Of true life. Recognizing that everything we have...can be broken.

Betsy Brock said...

yes, no words...so very sad. Love and prayers to them.

Vodka Mom said...

just wanted to give you a hug.

Christine said...

We live in a society that are raising children to feel that they are entitled to everything, problem is they have no idea how to handle disappointment. One problem of many that is brewing out there. Many tears shed yesterday, but there is hope even in hopeless situations.

farawayinthesunshine said...

It's so hard to put into words the depth of the sadness and powerlessness I feel today.

Let's hugs our children tight and just keep hugging them.

Debby@Just Breathe said...

My heart is so heavy with sadness.
Your an excellent writer. I am thankful for the hearts of the teachers who protected the children that they could. Keeping everyone in my thoughts and prayers.

rosaria williams said...

Chills and utter sadness, at this tragedy, at all the tragedies we can't control. Yes, a teacher is given quite a responsibility!

Who Is Afraid Of Miss Lovett? No, Mrs.Lovett... said...

"a bird lands on the window sill
brown with orange breast, eyes us,
curious perhaps---the clock hand
falls hard into the new minute---
it flits off---gone---the bell rings
for class change

'alright,
let's do this..."


Hi! Brian...Just like I mentioned to Claudia, you have also used detail to set a scene or create a character...in your [very] thought-provoking powerful message today.

Thanks, for sharing Hilary's image... too!
deedee :(

Tina said...

Thanks. Thanks. I've been taking this hard, and remembering that there are those of you who try to stop this before it starts is a comfort. Though my heart is breaking...
Great scene setting..."or at least pass the state test." That's a whole other subject I should post a rant about.
Brian - thanks for being in the trenches.
Tina @ Life is Good
http://kmdlifeisgood.blogspot.com/

Zeba said...

Oh tragedies. Sigh.

JeannetteLS said...

I come from a family of teachers. As always, your poetry hits home on many levels. I returned to the blogosphere today to hang onto beauty and love. Beyond my own post I landed here first. And, as always, I am so very glad that I have. You always hold your family close, I know, so I need not say to do that! I love your work, my friend. How can we all not love the soul who creates it?

Victoria said...

What else can I say, Bri? Yesterday after I heard about the shooting I went to meet a friend for lunch. I was so aware of small things, details...people walking along the street, in the restaurant. I wondered if they knew our lives would be changed yet again. I may not be able to join today. My laptop crapped out and my desktop is hard to use for reasons associated with aging. Ha. I have one milling around in my mind, though. May link it Tuesday if I have the laptop back.

Brian Miller said...

thanks for the email to check on me last night victoria...ack on the computer issues...hope those are not long lasting ...

Wolfsrosebud said...

Dad... give those kids a hug and a few extra ones who have no father

Casey Freeland said...

Oh, man. Powerful words my friend.

Take care.

Casey

Natasha Head said...

Okay...now I cry again...this has been awful...love that you have a rubber plant to console you though...I was there, as I am in all your pieces Brian...YOU are the devil in the details I think...this is a crystal scene...as clear as my tears...loved it...even though it hurt.

SilverGardenia said...

Very touching.

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FrankandMary said...

Today we're learning: Life can be relentlessly exhausting & frightening.

The Empress said...

Brian, so much anger in the world. Angry enough to aim at children with a multi click weapon that someone can spray bullets like water out of a garden hose.

My body is still heavy today.

hedgewitch said...

Detail makes the picture. Heard the author of a book on Columbine say that adolescents ought to have a routine screening for depression, at the time they get their high school physicals, and start getting helped as soon as possible. But who's going to help them, with every budget cut down to nothing? You ought to be getting combat pay, bri.

anotherwanderingsoul said...

Brian, this is overwhelming. It made my throat constrict and fascinated me at the same time.
Such a great tragedy, I'm at a loss of words.

I admire your courage to put this into words... the weight, the sadness, the helplessness... I felt it. You took me there.

You definitely are the "King of Details". Love your work.

Susan Daniels said...

Brian, I loved this. Yesterday & today have been difficult for us all. My heart breaks for these families, the children, their classmates that survived--everyone.

Poet Laundry said...

Whew...to be in the classroom and face this like you did, wow. Thanks for your gift there, and here. And your detailing is impeccable.

Jenny Woolf said...

Your poem throws a shaft of strange light onto this terrible subject.

Tara Miller said...

What a terribly sad day that no parent should have to face. Your teacher's view gives us such a good insight on the other side - to those protecting our children; the stress and fears they (you) face as well. your visuals and descriptions are always spot on.

Tracie Skarbo said...

Yesterday I was reeling, and today I continue to do so... How did we get here indeed!?

Leanne Dolby said...

The minute detail laid out in the poem is breathtaking and it gave me the chills. Atmospheric.

pandamoniumcat said...

I feel the ache in this poem for the questions without answers...how can anyone makes sense of such a tragedy...it's heartbreaking. Thank goodness for people like yourself who work with these troubled children. The bird landing on the window sill is a powerful symbol. A great poem.

Behind the Smile said...

As a former youth worker I can understand the thin line walked in this poem. The bodyguard as well as the educator, the fear and the potential violence thinly veiled. The very detail is brilliant I felt I was there with you. The association with what happened in America-brings the truth the reality of the potential to us. Powerful, thank you.

Susan said...

Remember always that you can say "No." That you are not trained (nor paid) for this, and that as wonderful and neat as you are, you need not accept all the rules stretching they do without ever debriefing you. It's as if teachers have no feelings--at least that's how I remember it. Please, if your gut tells you so, say no.

She Writes said...

Brian, this is a brutal reminder that educators are being asked to be more than they bargained for.

Heather Sawaya said...

This gave me chills, Brian. It played like a movie scene in my head, both suspenseful and tragic. Brilliantly done.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Brian, you took us right into the heart of what we are all reeling from yesterday and today. You likely dont know this, but you are a hero. You keep showing up, you keep caring, you keep trying and you may not even know, at least from the quiet kids, how many hearts and lives you touch and give hope to in a day. Especially right now when students old enough to know must live in fear. A powerful write, and one we all need to read and re-read. Teachers deserve better pay, and kids need a lot more resources than are available to them.

Bodhirose said...

I've just read two other posts and we've all shared the same theme...yesterday's events. I'm sure uppermost in our minds. I'm feeling uneasy, Brian...

Steve E said...

Is there not SOME control in school perimeter of what can be brought into the area? Metal detectors? SOMETHING?

Hope you get "HAZARD PAY" man, because you DO have that added stress. (Although for me, ANY teaching job is stressful--

Let us pray...........


Joanna Jenkins said...

My heart is breaking over the tragedy. I come from a family filled with teachers and therapists and folks like you just trying to help kids.
Such great sadness.
jj

Madeleine Begun Kane said...

Wow! That was outstanding!

adeeyoyo said...

What a dreadful thing! What seems to be the problem is how to avoid it. What are the signs and what to do with kids who show the signs. Even with counselling, how many will change? It is imperative that we try to get it right.

John (@bookdreamer) said...

Well went off to read into the right to bear arms debate. To my ignorant eyes, looks like a clear case of a set of words taken away from any historical or narrative context so that they come to mean something very different. Reminded me of what some Christians do with passages from the bible. If you look at how they came to be drafted and contemporary criticism you see these are not about personal rights but state rights to have amed forces over and above those of the federal government. Although this was rejected by your current surpreame court so what would I know! Ahem 9 deaths for every 10,000 in USA and .25 for the UK

Geraldine said...

I still can't get my head around what's happened in CT.

I'm sure you are hugging your own kids just a little closer right now.

Your words touched my heart.

Take care, G

A Cuban In London said...

My heart goes out to the families of those affected by this tragedy. Thanks for the poem.

Greetings from London.

Elsie The Writer said...

Your words are beautiful and breathtaking - stay safe

Brudberg said...

Ohh so sad, and the details just add to sadness.

ayala said...

Speechless and sad...your insight a great write.
:(

Daniel said...

This scene was a punch in the gut. Although more and more frequent of an occurrence, it still always catches me unsuspecting and unprepared.

Sabio Lantz said...

Superb. I can't tell you how true this line rang for me:

"'alright,
let's do this."

As I walk into patient's room with bad new, or I hear of my own bad news and toughen up to be present for my patients and think of their world.

Let's do this!

annell said...

There really are no words...are so many words. Wonderful piece.

dsnake1 said...

halfway around the world, the news made headlines here too.

your poem is so rich in details, and strong imagery. powerful piece of work.

Polly said...

God, this is tragic ...

Polly said...

God, this is so tragic ~ not your poem, Brian, that is wonderful, but the underlying topic

Dana Dampier said...

It's so sad that the focus is not only on education anymore... it's on whether or not this child/young adult is capable of violence and how do I protect myself while doing my job.

Nilanjana Bose said...

Horrific events...I really have no words...so chilling the amount of anger and hate and violence secreted in such young minds!

^.^ said...

"... class, today we'll learn that not all gypsies are bad people ... look around your class ... one by one ..." I still remember, when one of my brothers stabbed a classmate into his bum ... I know, every situation is different, but it was traumatic then as well ... and life goes on and healing will take place ... I know ... still, my heart is heavy ... Love, cat.

Kim Nelson said...

The fine line walked by the ones on these front lines is unappreciated, under-compensated. Yet those called, serve.

Alice Audrey said...

This one cut awfully close to home for you. It's not just the kids that are time bombs, apparently, since this time the killer wasn't a student.

Syd said...

You have my respect for what you do. Maybe just by being there and being real, you will prevent a kid from descending into a mad rage of killing. You touch lives in so many ways.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Anywhere, anytime. We never know. We're all just counting the minutes, deluding ourselves that there will always be another.

Gloria said...

Some of us make and special post dear brian if you want to see xo

ladyfi said...

Such a sad day... thanks for writing this.

CiCi said...

How can we ever get the sick minds to health, the anger to peace, will it ever happen, is it possible. Being a teacher is indeed being a bodyguard as well as a mind instructor.

Annmarie Pipa said...

can't really think of anything else....
just pray.

Lyn said...

This hell is where we're at now...violence profits many industries...guns, games, movies..and we wonder??? You do see things we have to know.

Okie said...

Wonderful post. Really draws me in. I love and appreciate the emotional tug here.

darsden said...

as I try to inhale the air...wow

Rachel Hoyt said...

You capture these serious moments so well. I am really feeling for the little girl who was the only one to make it out of her 1st grade classroom alive today. I can't imagine the weight she must feel.

Rebecca S. said...

Wow. Only 1200 to watch at once. That is what 'education' professionals are dealing with these days. My daughter just came home from school in tears - so many negative and conflicting energies to deal with in the students at school. Now I will help put her back together. That's what parents are dealing with these days. Society needs to detox in a big way, I think.

Even way out here, we have been sent letters from the school officials regarding the tragedy and school safety protocol. Sigh. So much sadness. I feel heavy.

disastress said...

oh, oh, oh. i love the perspective. i needed this. it's so nice to come together as poets and grieve like this. poets. i've never called myself a poet, until i started talking to poets. it feels rather nice. i never had a community before. how therapeutic this is. thank you for this. and for dverse. and just - for being you.

mrs mediocrity said...

I still have no words, just empty spaces.
How did we get here, how do we move forward, how... all these questions, no answers.
I have great respect for what you do, how difficult it must be, I cannot imagine.
Bless us all.

mywordwall said...

I hope my comment will not be received as sarcastic or offensive - your poem just clearly illustrated the challenges and dangers of a teacher's job these days. Not only is the teacher the vanguard of a child's mind and soul, he is also now the guardian of his student's life as well (at more than any other time in history).

Sue said...

I don't even have words for what's happened.

I hope we can find some solutions.

"/

Heather said...

it's really gotten to me. I have to say, Im still speechless about it all.
thinking of you and all that you do for the kids!

Heather said...

Im still heartbroken by this. having a hard time coping. thinking of you and the other teachers and professionals out there on the front lines!

Laura said...

love, guide, teach, and protect with all the anger, fears, broken hearts and minds... that's a lot to hold in a classroom, in a school, in our communities... but what else can we do but try. Thanks for this Brian.