Saturday, September 20, 2008

I Have Failed the Quiet

The weather has been cool. The light amazing. The crickets have slowed their rhythms to indicate the coming of fall. So these mornings I've been book-worming it out on the patio instead of indoors. We just moved to this house in a historic North East Kansas City neighborhood over the summer, so these cool mornings outdoors are brand new. At our midtown apartment, we had a balcony where I'd sit and read in the mornings until a line or two would come to me. But things sounded different there--there were layers upon layers of noise: dogs barking out to car alarms up to the rotor thwup-thwup of the ghetto birds out to Main Street traffic bass and horn out to the highways with the sad thrum of truck tires and the sounds of commerce droning on and on out into the day. Here, a polyphonic quiet slowly lifts itself from the mornings. A kind of quiet that isn't silent but something else. Anyway, I've taken a break from the Notes for a Memoir manuscript and have been writing poems in sections, something I had not done too much of before. Here are two (of six) sections from a poem I've written from the patio surrounded by the *quiet*.


Just then was the quiet.
I would swear to its having
been the unmouthed voice
of the quiet. Listen,
I would indicate silence
to the boy with my hand
upheld, severing his speech
from the air. Could you
hear the quiet rolling
out from the Eastern hill?

But I have no son and
the quiet I heard was no
more than the trains lost
once again to the distance
between here and there.


I’m certain of the quiet
in the way a man is certain
of anything. Up all night,
the Certain Man will smoke
all his cigarettes one by one
like there was no tomorrow.
Before the street lights
stub themselves out,
before he creaks open
the car door and seals
his certain mode within,
intent on the convenience
store, he will let the quiet tear
the dawn into halves, smugly
handing over the first
before pocketing the other.
In this regard, I am less
than a Certain Man. I will stay
here. I will merely pit the quiet
voice against the gentle wind,
uncertain of the exact
terms of our transaction.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

the rhythm of joy

Currently reading David Lehman's The Last Avant-Garde, The Making of the New York School of Poets. Only sixty pages in, but I thought I should report the most impressive biographical fact read so far: At Harvard, Kenneth Koch, a 21-year old rifleman just returned from WWII, wrote his class notes in unrhymed iambic pentameter. He wrote his class notes in iambic pentameter! Reading this last night, I barely suppressed the urge to yell the news through the house. I mean, what bio detail could epitomize he, Ashbery and O'Hara's playful-with-the-serious aesthetic more? But I bit my tongue. My wife, angrily reading plogs, would not have been as impressed as you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Back to school. The third week starts today. Now I have to shower and make the commute...but quickly, guess how many of my 15 gifted & talented sixth graders are girls?

Give up?



You were close.


Yeah, there are only 3 boys. I've been teaching GT, 6th through 8th grades, for seven years now. And the girl to boy ratio has never been so imbalanced. I'm the oldest of three boys. So I know boys pretty well. Now I'm planning to do some reading on girls. Please recommend books, if you know of any.