Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Francisco San School Day

It was one of those days.
You know what I'm talking about.
There was the tremor in the morning
that left everyone unsettled.
No plaster cracked or fell from the walls,
but we all still shuddered inside
sporadically throughout the day.

Actually, it started before that
when I forgot the words to the pledge
of allegiance, as if I was that no man
who is an island, bound to none.
Another teacher gave me the glare
that said I was being seditious,
but it was my brain in rebellion
against me, not my heart.

And then walking up the stairs
to the classroom, it was as if the tread
of my shoe was gone, every step
was wrong, the wetness of the morning fog
now squeaking off loudly on the stairs,
my foot slipping so I almost fell,
and then giving a flat tire
to the little fourth-grade girl
struggling up the stairs in front of me.

After the tremor, they were timid.
Afraid to ask questions, to take smart risks,
as if the stigma of the label of special education
had been stamped on them all.
They weren't themselves, as if their nether selves
had crawled up and thrown their sacred selves down.

I didn't teach a single thing that day.
I swear everything I did only hindered
their progress rather than aiding it.
My lesson plans weren't on my clipboard.
I couldn't find the copies I'd made
the previous day. The teacher's edition
wasn't on the shelf of my podium.
My every effort only enmeshed my students
in a net of incompetence and ignorance.
By the end of the day, we were a tuft,
a dense clump, of humanity.

I dismissed them at two,
and sat alone in my classroom until three
dismissing myself.

/ / /

For this poem, I combined two prompts, Wordle 17 from The Sunday Whirl, and a prompt from Poetic Asides to write an "everything is against you" poem. Thanks to Brenda and Robert.


  1. Richard, I remember some days (when I was teaching)that has this same feel, days when nothing went right. But in your case, I certainly understand it. Who can teach or learn when one has been through an earthquake. In this case bad days are more than understandable. To survive the day is enough! Glad to see you back writing so much again.

  2. Mary, thank you. Yes, I think we have to respect Mother Nature, and things don't always go smoothly when she reminds us she's around - and strong.

    Thanks. It's good to be writing again. I've missed it. And I've missed you. I have a lot of reading to do.


  3. I loved this and enjoy your ability to weave a meaningful story from the wordle words. This one was rich and thoughtfully done. I thought the ending was just perfect. :-)

  4. Susannah, thank you. Glad you liked it, especially the ending. I'm fond of that wordplay myself.


  5. I really was taken in by this poem, as we all know the feeling of days when everything seems "off"....this is so well expressed. Love it!

  6. Sherry, glad you liked it. It was fun to write, in a perverse kind of way, with everything going wrong.