I’ve been sick for three weeks. That’s not true — I was sick for 12 days, okay for 2, and then The Hand of Malaise reached up through a crack in the Earth and dragged me down into the Funk of Lung Disease. My immune system, constantly exposed to the petri dish of teen germs, is shot to hell — but I’m out of sick time so I go to work anyway. At my desk I have an electric kettle, a heating pad, a bucket of hand sanitizer, Vicks VapoRub, and a full complement of lesbo herb tea. The kids say I smell funny. I tell them to stay out of my air space because I want them to live.
I was in this run-down state when we began our Modern Poetry unit last week. I figured they’d had all the traditional rhyme and meter stuff, so I skipped straight ahead to the Beats and took a sharp left into slam/performance, e.g. Alix Olson. We spent the week reading silently, reading out loud, listening, re-listening, writing, editing, and passing the best stuff from group to group. Some adult content, sure, but all carefully vetted and parent-permissioned.
And then. AND THEN. I passed out the wrong Staceyann Chin poem. I meant to give them “My Grandmother’s Tongue,” which has great themes — cultural heritage; generational wisdom — and which starts out:
She gets shorter every year
her ninetieth birthday bending her into a new century
Now she has the time to wonder
how the seeds of her womb
have come to such silence
Hearing is hard for her
the twilight taxes the organs of the poor
she wonders if the children born in exile
look anything like her
they visits spaced like the teeth of the elderly
infrequent and few
they bring too many sweets anyway
old people should not partake of such pleasures
dying flesh cannot withstand it…
But I accidentally gave them “Catalog the Insanity,” which goes like this:
Within 30 seconds, the air in the room changed. I’d never seen students so intent on a piece of reading. Look! I thought proudly, even as I feverishly spit something horrible into a tissue. Active student engagement! Rigorous academic focus!
Then someone giggled. I looked up to see 37 pairs of eyes bore holes through the giggler: Shut up.We’re trying to read this graphic lesbian sex poem.
Alerted, I shot from my desk and took the poem back like a Soviet censor: My mistake, here, let me print out what I meant to give you. Oops! Ha ha! The great part was, they resisted me and tried to hang onto the poem. One copy was almost ripped in half as I confiscated it. There was actual passion for reading in class that day, for the very first time. Score.
Also, I gave in and went to the doctor for an antibiotic. That herbal shit is worthless.