hopeful fall

mid-journey pause to reflect forwards

back to the grind, hustlin for papers

 – getting them to the profs in time, that is.

nothing epic or particularly amazing, just going to

glide back into class. Gross.

lone room, lone star, maybe

this year we’ll make something worth keeping.

drowning

When I first went to India, I wrote a piece concerning drowning and being drowned in a culture that was not my own:

“Each of her parents had gone their own way. Her mother had walked out of an icy, damp land, hair blowing in the wind – Ireland, the place she mentioned with longing sighs and wistful glances out the door. Her father had stood tall on the decks of ships way out across the Caribbean, traversing the dangers of South America, a land that had chiseled him down and made him a man.

So it was only natural that, after they’d all been together on the plains of Africa, that she would dive off the deep end and drown herself in the madness of India.

The drop into India was longer than she expected. She fell silently, her eyes open and her arms outstretched, until she crashed into the water with a mighty SPLASH, where it tore at her clothes, ripping out her hair. She sank swiftly and silently, shooting down by her skeletons of dreams and tattered kelpy thoughts, sinking deeper and deeper into darker and darker waters.

She came up for air in Agra, where she found a sort of life raft named Andy which carried her along for a while so that she could wipe her hair out of her eyes and catch her breath. All the water she’d swallowed stayed down, and he told her that she should keep it there because it would keep her alive.”

(2008)

Now I am melting, falling into this wasteland that says I belong,

I am overcome with memories and confusion

this constant reminder of You Do Not Understand,

You Do Not Belong

even though I look and speak like a native

I have perfected this chameleon act, blending

speaking this language to communicate a modicum of thought.

 – And yet, it is never enough.

I am exhausted of getting everything wrong, failing

in work friendship conversation class assignment meeting

I truly just want to get back to a language I can speak fluently,

speaking the truth into every ear, bold in faith

knowing that I am wholly loved and that I love wholly.

Let me fight this current, hold down this fiery water that burns my lungs

offensive, grating, I will breathe it

and swim to summer shores

then from there learn how to breathe air again.

springing

this sun

has to be a joke, it is

so drizzly wet outside and we are dashing

from buildings, breathing deeply

but trying not to ruin our hair

(let me say that the deepest joy

is from looking down and remembering that I am rooted in

boots I’ve had since I was eleven.)

It’s amazing what can make someone’s day

The P. 1. class at Nakaale Primary School was having trouble paying attention, as usual. The one hundred plus kids sat/stood around the room on broken pieces of brick, benches and desks, each one fidgeting and chattering. Even the windowsills were full of squirming kids, each fighting for a seat. The cement dust that filled the air was causing the kids to cough and sneeze all over each other. The kids were all squabbling over the slates and slate chalk that were being passed out, fights that could only be broken up by a switch.

I stood at the front of the class, chalk in one hand, slate in the other, trying to properly demonstrate how to draw the letter “A”. I had a switch tucked under one arm that I kept having to bring out and shake at the kids, banging the stick on the desks to try and keep order. None of them were listening.

“Lomongin! Listen! – No, Moses, stop that! Stop yelling, Petero! Emmy, sit down. Moses! Be quiet! Lomongin, I told you to be quiet!” and so on. My sisters roamed the classroom with switches and slates, trying to maintain order. The slate I was holding was giving me trouble. I was having to hold it over my head so that all the kids could see it, and still it wasn’t big enough.

Inspiration struck. I handed my slate and chalk to Anna and dashed out of the classroom, skidding over the pitted, dusty walkway to the P.3 classroom. As I had suspected, the class was having “reading groups” and the teacher was nowhere to be seen. I pointed to a cracked piece of plywood that had been painted black – the blackboard – that was leaning against the wall in the front of the room. “Can I use this for P.1?” The kids looked at me askance, and I grabbed the plywood.

“You.” I pointed, “And you. Carry this desk.” Two of the P.3 boys rose and picked up the desk, following me out of the room.

As I entered the P.1 classroom, the plywood held over my head, the entire class leapt to its feet and burst into a simultaneous cheer: “YEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!” I had the P.3 boys set the desk at the front of the room – amidst the clapping and cheering – and we set the plywood up on it, using a rock to keep it there. I turned to see all of the little P.1 kids on their feet, applauding and yelling, huge grins on every face. I assumed my stern teacher face, trying desperately to keep my authoritative air.

I raised my switch in the air and waved a hand. “Be quiet, sit down.” The class complied, still beaming wholeheartedly. They sat like a hundred or so little angels, each one looking up at me expectantly. I turned back to the plywood – a ragged, chipped piece that sagged pathetically against the wall. I raised my piece of chalk and began, tucking my switch beneath one arm.

“This is the letter ‘A’.”