Toe-skewered socks shuffled in years-tattered shoes
Patched-up tweed elbows rested gently; arms folded in poised disapproval
He was my teacher
A man steeped in the essence of the written word
Every bump and groove of his face were the syllables of a life long lived
Stressed and unstressed beats of the tension between us denoted his impatience
For he and I saw the word a different way
He detracted the sweetness of my plum-purple prose
and I loathed the strictness and banality of his expert structure, his measured cadence
but we could agree on one thing
We loved the word
We loved every echo of it in the long night
After fires fade and blue birds sleep
How dreams tumble out of the mouths of snoring dissidents
See those murmurs become the dialectic, the dreams, of poets galore!
We agreed on this
The desperate cry of freedom
Yet we could not agree on his score of my work
Which I had so passionately written till early morning
Rings of the moon beneath my eyes as I argue
And his stonewall-gaze leaves my arguments blunt
For you are young, he says, you do not know the way of the pen still
With sword I could ply approval from his lips
Rend his flesh asunder
Feed the dogs and the birds
Leave marks on his children like slave brands,
The power of the sword could make him do as I asked!
Exactly as I asked…
But with pen I could get nary a nod
I abandoned my search for his smile that day
Yet not the pen
In fact, I pressed firm, not with the nib, but with my mind
Day by day
Hour by hour
Past midnight into dreamland, by the light of the cosmos I composed worlds into waking
Tirelessly, my fingers plodded upon the keyboard
I watched the letters tick by
On and on
Full speed ahead
As if I were running
Peering down at my soul from an emerald tower
Each keystroke was a step away
A step beyond, years beyond
I sought my pleasure where it could be found
The approval of my peers
Scores of adoration, as if by the metric-ton
As if a scarlet letter of FAILURE were etched in my soul
And just like that,
My running came to a stop
As news of his death reached the shore of my self-imposed exile
Exile from shame
Exile from disappointment
I saw myself more lowly than ever
As, for after all those years of running, those stonewall-eyes had gone to sleep
And had not cared for my embarrassment
It were as if I were fighting a ghost I created
And look where it got me
To the top of the world
Chased into an emerald tower
Fearing myself a fraud at the ease of my keystrokes
How could such talent belong to a failure?
Well the man who proved I was a failure was dead
And I realized
So, too, should my defensive pride live no longer
So, too, should I free myself of the fear that manifests the agonizing toll of the pursuit of perfection
So, too, should I realize…
Just because he did not approve
Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t approve of myself
Exit stage left
Where dreams await
And I learn to enjoy what the dissidents dreamed
A life in which our dreams live free
No longer sheltered in the embrace of our childhood nightmares
No longer living in fear…
It's funny, I've often reflected on this particular comment one of my English teachers gave me once.
What's weird is, at the time, I considered his comment a compliment, "Second-rate author," I never considered myself to possess authorship, much less being second-rate, so I accepted it as subtle praised and moved on.
Yet years later, when I began to take much pleasure in, and put focus on, my writing, I began to resent this comment of his.
Obviously, I'm a much better writer than when I was 16/17, but for whatever reason, this comment of his bugged me as I was getting my degree in creative writing.
It's also startling that I got some very cruel criticism from some professors of mine while getting my degree, yet none of them needled my brain as much as that which I heard as a teenager. The irony is starling, LOL.
Anyway, I myself am now a teacher. When I began heading toward this profession, I knew there was going to be some sort of transformative lesson I would learn. Something important. I kind of lead my life this way.
Yet this poem is every proof of what it was that I set out to learn and this is only the beginning.
I love when a poem comes together like this one.
I had the first 5 lines pop into my head ad-lib and I had such an itch to jot them down that I ignored some important things to wait on my slow computer to open up Word so I could record them.
An hour later and I have this poem, which I consider a beauty.
It's certainly pleasing to me.
I haven't written a long poem like this in almost a year.
I've been on a steady diet of writing Twitter poems, haha.
Last night, I was looking at my pinned tweet, which was the last poem I posted here, and I thought to myself, "I need a new one, it's been almost a year."
Lo and behold! The Lord provides, haha.
It was a great day for this, too, because this was a great teaching day.
Rewarding, valuable, transformative, a source for reflection and catharsis, all culminating in this poem here.
I feel quite satisfied :)
I hope this poem was great for you, too.