I don’t hate my English teacher.

A few days ago, I read an internet discussion that talked about how English is taught in schools. Several people felt the curriculum stifled them, the teacher didn’t recognize their intelligence, and that the stress contributed to their unhappiness.

I’m sympathetic to this line of thinking about the past. If it’s not English it’s physical education. Or history. Or math. Despite a great deal of intelligence, teachers seemed to get in the way. The bad grades weren’t my fault, it was a stupid set of requirements and rules that didn’t make sense. Disappointing grades caused conflict with my parents. Why would you do this to me? I could teach this class.

Although I’m sympathetic to that reading of my academic past, it’s not true. And I don’t hate my English teacher. The assignments I didn’t do may have not been the most engaging and the books I didn’t read may have not been the most important. Digging deeper into my younger self, it becomes clear.

I didn’t hate my English teacher. I hated my adolescence.

Adolescence is both a traumatic process and one every single person has to go through. The perpetrator isn’t someone I trusted or a playground enemy I despised. Biology- it was biology. There’s no good way to get mad as adolescence. It’s incorporeal. I vented at other people. My parents, my teachers, my peers, random strangers on the internet. I vented it at walls, pinecones on the street. The exception was myself, I didn’t hurt myself, I knew too many who did. Even today, when a friend wears short sleeves,  the tell-tale scars on her arms are there…their way of fighting something that didn’t come out and stand solid to attack.

Living in my mid 20s, crisis takes a different form. A friend’s mother dies suddenly. Another has to go homeless for a few weeks to scrounge up rent money.  Yet another struggles with domestic abuse and develops a drug problem. It all is real, serious, and terrible to them and those that they love. It happens sporadically, though. Someone falls then gets back up again. Then another takes their place. Overall, most are doing okay. When I was thirteen the crisis was now, and everyone I knew was in the same situation. Maybe a bit better, maybe a bit worse. Maybe finishing the crisis, maybe just starting it. It was a warzone.

I don’t hate my English teacher. I hated everyone.

My English teacher gets an ex post facto amnesty. For all imagined crimes committed against me. For allegedly not recognizing my talents. For getting me in the kind of trouble I needed to get into and get through.

I don’t hate my English teacher. I hate thinking about my past.

Sorry, you’re a part of that past. I can’t take back my past anger- the things I said and the much larger, darker bank of things I thought. The most I can do is rehabilitate you and your reputation. Over time I’ve come to think that the worst jobs are those where you have to see people on the worst day of their lives. Bailiffs, abortion clinic workers, homicide detectives. Though you may not be in that tier, you’re close. Every day you walk in to the classroom. At least half of the class is bullied. Some have been sexually assaulted. A couple think about killing themselves at least some of the time. Maybe a few are starting to develop a substance addiction that will stick around for a long time. Nevertheless, you showed up several times a week and tried to make us all give a shit about the English language. A Herculean effort if there was ever one.

I don’t hate my English teacher. I’m just glad that they didn’t hate me.

They didn’t hate me.

Still-wet clay

If there was a better way
a better time, place, mood,
world- I did not know about it.

For what is each new second but
an opportunity to learn of past failures
the river card reveals that you would have won
a poker hand long since folded.

The dike breaks, say,
and all the past flows
takes us all in its current

If all that came before was still-wet clay
to be moulded by our present selves
would we ever stop tinkering?

A masterpiece exists because the painter
stepped back and refused to add
one more brushstroke.

What I could have said
done, differently.

Sometimes
it’s best to let statues stand as they are.

When we were few

When we were few
every single star shone
swirling in wonder around
a magnificent Moon.

When we were few
a tree grew so great
from its canopy beheld
the whole Earth.

When we were few
waves found vacant beaches
which framed a great realm
of shimmering fish

When we were few
time knew no keeper
beast knew no master
the field knew no plow

When we were few
voices drowned in wind
footsteps faded in sand
history was forgotten
and then began anew.

When we were few
When we were few.

 
 

Birthing, thriving, dying, gone

The tree by the train tracks;
Or the train tracks by the tree?;
Before man bound steam;
Into its iron horses, galloping;
Valiant;
Centuries of standing silent;
Amongst the leaves;
Birthing, thriving, dying, gone;
Its bristles raking the air-;
Once fierce and thrashing, then;
Placid, serene, with jays soaring;
So high as to leave the realm behind;

Wet, the bark is soft, deceptive;
For the strength that lies inside;
One day
the storm shall wrench its;
Wise and ancient roots out;
Or the selfish beings;
So small and short-lived;
Will come with gleaming axes;

What remains- a tapestry of triumph;
The humble stump,
speaking;
Of a past now forgotten;

Informed of their collapse

The tome of the past;
Is sometimes written as a symphony, though in a key;
Long forgotten and buried under the gathered silt;
Of progress, of war, of the sheer brutality of time;

Year Zero often comes subtly;
When the sun emerges from below dew-drenched hills;
And things are not quite what they were before;
A new age is not always proclaimed by a revolutionary;
To thunderous applause;
Nations are not always told of their golden age;
Or informed of their collapse;

When the academics unearth my time;
What great men will be moulded?;
What villains will be cast?
And what role will I play in this;
Production of three acts?

As the sand falls

If I came upon an hourglass;
Where time flowed from what could;
To what is, then to what was once;
And held in my open palm the sand;
Of joy, sadness, loss, and redemption;
Would I want to know what story the grains;
Yet to fall would tell?;
Or would I wait for time to etch;
The story of my life, where each chapter;
Held but mere foreshadowing of the next;
And was the author, the emperor of recluses, preparing for an;
Eleventh-hour twist?