Thursday, January 30, 2014

Love and Gravitas



.
.
He says, as you know
death is incremental.
It can take years to pass.
The nightmare of isolation,
the precurser of passing
looms ever nearer.
Inklings from the loss of driver's license,
the joy of distance,
perfect incompletness,
then the gradual gelding by money. 
Income becomes minimally adequate,
possible only. I can't disagree.
Softness of fiscal flesh dries with slow
slicing away of everything joyous.
The light slowly dims.
He is frightened by the
confines and the darkness.
He is frightened of the signs.
.
He tells her
even when she may not listen,
when love costs
that's when you should measure it.
Keep pleasant
undemanding love a secret.
Enjoy it in private
or boast.
Never tell it secrets,
especially secrets of a
demanding kind.
When love holds
in spite of hurt
then it brings relief.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"Sunshine": Youtube Photoshow

 
 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Inconsequential Teacher



by Don Schaeffer



Over sixty is about apology,” said Ferdy. “Well, apology and memory. If you have literary pretensions, it's about apology and narrative.” Ferdy's class sat dumfounded. This was a little different from the usual lecture. “The only question left is how much apology is needed? When can one let up?”

They had never heard a lecturer behave in such an intimate way toward a class. The essence of professorial duty was standard distance. It was derived from the model of aristocracy, innate superiority or parenthood. The students generally believed that cracks or kinks in the demeanor of the teacher meant that knowledge, power, the power of knowledge was going to leak like warm gas and that the teacher would deflate hissing onto the classroom floor.

Ferdy's brief teaching career was in fact collapsing. It was his lack of distance that broke him.

Ferdy lived in the interstices between the rough and tumble of commercial life and the high fortress of academia. He stood on the road that led up the hill to the opening in the palace wall. He waited until one of the princes went on sabbatical and the voices of the cold high office accepted his standing in for a year.

The student's name was Norman. He was better groomed than most of his classmates, the kind of student who studied under duress, headed toward a future he never aimed for, chosen for him. The pressures could drive a student like Norman into fraud or robbery.

Ferdy will, to his last day, recall the what happened when Norman approached him after his lecture. He was pleased with the lecture he gave that day. It was a zinger from the heart. He wondered how his colleagues would have enjoyed it though. Ferdy had the suspicions that he often went too far into his heart when he spoke. There was not the sufficient air of impartial disinterest that he was supposed to show when he spoke about affairs of the human mind.

Professor Naismith,” Norman began as he stood over Ferdy. “I can't get a C on that assignment. I just can't.”

Ferdy heard the pull in Norman's voice. He was too naive to feel the danger. Urgency almost always spells danger, especially in learning. Norman's assignment was pure incompetence, if the professor examined it in the light of his so-called knowledge. But when he fell down, in the classroom, in the heat of inappropriate and innocent candor, the knowledge really did seep out of him like gas, deflating him. The evaluation of poor assumptions was the first thing to go. Ferdy suddenly had doubts about everything. He was tempted to apologize for his judgment

When would the certainty return? It was like a forgotten word in an aging brain.

Thinking maybe he was wrong, not wanting to make any assumptions that he was right, Ferdy said to Norman as the student stood so near, like a partner confronting an office intern, “OK, Norman, I'll think of another essay assignment for you. If you do well, I'll change your grade. See me after class on Thursday.” And they parted.

Ferdy didn't go to faculty meetings, feeling himself not quite on the faculty. He didn't use the assigned office for the minor echelons of hired academic staff. The office was a shared space high in the rafters of the building, largely un-locateable. Ferdy returned to his little rented office down the street and around the block from the campus. The landlord had cleaned out a large closet which had a light but no window. Ferdy had put a sign on the door:

Ferdinand Naismith, Ph. D.

He waited there for clients who never came.

It was clear two weeks later that Norman had absorbed nothing of the lectures, the textbook, the subject in general. According to Ferdy's educated judgment which flopped like the fin of a caged Orca, the student should receive the grade he deserved. It was Ferdy's duty to hold himself erect. The fears wrestled each other in his mind, but duty, this time prevailed. According to his weakness-based compassion, no harsh judgments, no ranking gradations that broke people's hearts should ever be rendered.

Ferdy changed the grade to a B.

The university staged a mass trial two weeks later. Ferdy faced Norman in open university fact-finding. The whole class heard the case. There were two major wrong-doings at issue:

      1. Ferdy had graded the exams using statistical standard scores. He justified this on the grounds that this was true “curved” grading and that it would make the students aware of statistical methods in hopes of getting them to research the subject. The students did not understand the grading system. They liked their grades to be simple. They liked everything to be simple. Ferdy was no longer in a mental condition to be simple.
      2. Ferdy had treated Norman unjustly.

Ferdy's academic career tilted on the rocks until one day his salary stopped coming and the department could no longer find a course for him. So much for that.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Conference


.
.
Thinking maybe I am wrong,
not wanting to make
unscientific assumptions
that I am right, I talk to the student
who stands so near, like a partner
confronting an office intern.
.
My educated judgment
flops like the dorsal fin
of a caged Orca.
It is my duty to hold myself erect.
.
The fears wrestle each other in my mind.
No harsh judgments, I believe,
no ranking gradations
should ever be rendered
that break somebody's heart.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

After the Lecture I gave Today



I am pleased with the lecture I gave today,
a zinger from the heart. But I suspect that I often
go too far into my heart when I speak,
with not enough of the 
impartial disinterest
I'm supposed to show
when speaking about affairs
of the human mind.

I hear the pull in the students' voices,
too naïve to feel the danger.
Urgency almost always spells danger,
especially in learning.
I could not examine the students
in the light of so-called knowledge.

When I fell down,
in the classroom,
in the heat of inappropriate
and innocent candor,
the knowledge really did
seep out of me like gas,
deflating me.

Evaluation of poor assumptions
is the first thing to go. With sudden
doubts about everything, I'm
tempted to apologize.
When would the certainty return?
It is like a forgotten word in an aging brain.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Cheat



Adjunct Assistant Professor Ferdy
lives between
a selling life and
the high fortress,
stands on the road
leading up the hill
to the opening in
the palace wall.
He is a creature
of weakness-bred
compassion.

Tyrone is better groomed
than most of his classmates, studying
under duress, heading where
he never aimed.
That could drive a
student like Tyrone
into fraud.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Cellulose": The Video



photos, poetry, strumming
http://youtu.be/Btfxr0MshHg



Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Professor's Career at an End


 
The lecturer behaves
in such an intimate way
not taking the standard distance
that is derived from the
model of aristocracy,
innate superiority
parenthood.
.
The students believe
cracks in the demeanor of the teacher
mean that knowledge,
power,
the power of knowledge
is going to leak
like warm gas
and that the teacher will deflate
hissing onto the classroom floor.



 

Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Retiring Professor: First Lines



“Seventy-four is about apology,” said Ferdy.
“Well, apology and memory.
If you have literary pretensions, it's about
apology and narrative.”

Ferdy's class sat there dumfounded.
This was a little different from the usual lecture.
“The only question left is
how much apology is needed? When can one stop?”

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Ahead of Change


By this time
I know who I am
approaching
zero correction.
Absurd kinks
never correctable
potencies un-achievable.
.
What if they
didn't tell me I was king?
That's my place now.
What would I be?
.
I can't afford
another lousy poem.
seeing my head
taller than the rest,
.
a little man,
in this little body
I didn't make, I am
ahead of change, rushed.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

My Approach to the Future



When I am seventy-four
I will apologize.
It will be a narrative
of explanations,
an elaborate blush.
I will say
“oh God”
to smooth the past.

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Great Not Me







It occurred to Samuel that he could have gone the other way in the last 10 years of his life. He could have kept part of what was old, broken only part of it, and introduced a new fragment to fill in. So he would have a new life and an old life patched together. He might have enjoyed the seams.

The seams between parts of his life would quickly fill with experential plastic, transparent glue time where he would do things out of time, a respite. He would be sitting and travelling perhaps.

The real life segments would develop boundaries, memory would seal them from each other. He could even take on different names and make up different histories which his memory would seal up in membranes made of time glue.

Samuel rose from his bed after this eventful night. Blocks of history had done a dance tonight. He met undead ghosts and nearly dead ghosts as well as dead ghosts. They took him on tours and filled his heart. He shook his head and try to cleanse himself of the flakes of the night. He tried to get into living where it is safe. How many more such daytimes could he expect?

Why had he come into the United States and New York from where he originated in the void? Why was he Jewish? Why not some other place? What is the present time? Why not some other time? There was so much about him that was somewhere in his life but that he didn't know, that he was never told. It was unconscious because it was never learned. Consciousness is such a strange bestowal.



What if they
didn't tell me I was king?
That's my place now.
What would I be?
.
I see my head
taller than the rest
and deny the exceptions.
What if they stopped doing what they do?
.
A little man,
in this little body
I didn't make, I am
ahead of change, rushed.



The questions were calming, much to his surprise. The questions rooted him into something lasting and basic whereas answers seemed topsy, tipply. There would always be questions, he could be certain of that while answers would be questioned and toppled.

He imagined a universe furnished with questions, where things were inverted as small sucking vacuums in a space of larger, weaker vacuums. Was this where he might have come from? Unknown land, unconscious world, did dreams flash in and out there?

Samuel woke up at 10 am, two full hours later than usual. Well his dreams disturbed his sleep several times just before dawn and he awoke to a safe place where everything gradually made sense. Then the cat came in and fell asleep on his legs. Samuel was grateful to the cat for cediting him with humanity. Samuel felt that cats had a way of honoring people they felt were fundamentally good, at least not harmful.

He was sorry to miss the early morning hours. The satisfying part of the day would soon end as sources of irritation would soon begin filtering into his life. But the sun was bright in the Winter sky. The trees seemed supernaturally tall. The dark lines of the branches, the nude branches like bones reached upward and outward. But they passed through unsystemmatic pathways in space. He wondered how the trees chose the passages, the holes in space through which the branches expanded. They were ameoba like. Their protoplasm squirted up through these invisible narrow channels in the air.

The phone rang at 11 am when the day was well underway. Marcy answered then passed the phone to Samuel who was surprised to receive it.

They went to the beach beyond the big trees. There was a great salt march and the sound tumbled around them. Three family men including Samuel walked through their unfamiliarity and differences. Samuel took a hundred photographs. Unusual to walk through sand in the cold, passing remnants of broken brick walls, shrines made of plastic, steel rods and flags. The sea birds wired together swirling overhead and damping down like a foamy cotton bedspread on the shallow water.

They looked for deer but didn't find any.

There was so much history here but the story wasn't pieced together and narrated for them. They could just see the outer edge fragments as they penetrated into their own time. The animals went about their business, surviving the winter as Samuel and his companions walked through the sand with their imperfect shoes. What the animals did was not their business. They spied on the animals fruitlessly, meaninglessly.

The origin of Samuel was not known to him. He didn't own his own history, had no claim to it. The people who had the information were gone.


Thursday, January 02, 2014

Certification



What if they
didn't tell me I was king?
That's my place now.
What would I be?
.
I see my head
taller than the rest
and deny the exceptions.
What if they stopped doing what they do?
.
A little man,
in this little body
I didn't make, I am
ahead of change, rushed.