Ambition: A Poem

8:30 p.m. is the magic hour
My brain teleports to a parallel universe
Where I am not myself

In that universe,
I don’t watch TV
I don’t listen to podcasts
I don’t take naps
I don’t sleep much
I don’t play Frozen Free Fall
And I certainly don’t forget to write a poem every day in April.

In that universe,
I go to Jazzercise every day
I write a textbook
I master JavaScript
I complete Adobe certifications
I bake cookies for new families at church
I send birthday cards to 349 Facebook friends

By 9:30, plans are concrete
Lists are complete
“I can live in that universe,”
I lie to myself as I drift off to sleep

And maybe for an hour, maybe for a day
I visit that universe and I pave a few bricks
Of my good-intentioned road
But that universe is exhausting,
And post-visit, I must take a nap.

A Poem, Day 8

Today’s prompt was to take a buzzword from a profession and turn it into a metaphor, or flip the meaning, inspired by this beautiful poem from one of my favorites, Maggie Smith.

Student Engagement

The students stare into black mirrors
Reflecting photos, games, autoplayed clips
Engaged with empty electronic endeavors

I start the day’s lesson, remembering
The content must be engaging
I must be engaging
Assessments must be engaging

But lost in the engagement admonition
Is teaching them how to be engaged In life.

Engage, I want to tell them,
With nature
With people
With midnight conversations
With ideas and aspirations

What does student engagement look like?
It looks like a school raising money for flood victims
It looks like a senior befriending and comforting a freshman
It looks like a student holding open a door for a weary teacher

That’s the engagement I want to assess
With unlimited chances to learn

Poem, Day 7

If I Could Have Anything

On my way to the city,
A giant billboard reminds me
The Powerball jackpot is at $350 million
Some weeks, it is.
Some weeks it’s less, others more.
As the billboard shifts to my rear view mirror
The math begins:

Take the lump sum, $175 million.
$10 million into ten separate trusts, one for each niece and nephew
A nest egg for college or a tech startup
Or a food truck business

Pay off all family mortgages
Pay off all family student loans
Pay off all family consumer debt
Maybe $3 million? I have no idea.
Any leftover goes to the houses:

My siblings and my parents all get new houses
And so do I
Fully furnished
With help from Bobby Berk, of course.

$50 million to my school
For one purpose: a new auditorium
With green rooms and dressing rooms and practice rooms
And a real pit area, under the stage.

$20 million to travel
First class
Always staying in Marriotts
Real Marriotts, downtown Marriotts,
Not Fairfield Inns 40 miles west of the cities I’m exploring.

$2 million to blow on Broadway plays with my friends
In New York, of course,
Not Chicago, and definitely not Omaha.

That’s about where the math escapes me
And I remember that most lottery winners end up bankrupt
So it’s probably for the best
That I know how to squeeze joy and happiness
From my niece’s hugs
From my students’ achievements
From my friends’ laughter
From my mom’s egg rolls

From a perfectly written sentence
From a drive with my dad
From a late night with my sisters
From a perfectly resolved chord

If I could have anything,
Sure, I’d like the Powerball jackpot
I’m lucky, after all:
I know how
To have gifts and joy
In the ordinary

Poem #4: A Sad Sonnet

A Thursday Decision

“$3.95,” the cashier said
“For a cupcake?” I scoffed and turned,
I shook my head.
And even though my stomach burned
I still wanted a treat.
Ice cream, cupcake, macaron,
Really, anything sweet.
But I could make anything at home
For so much less
Than $3.95, and though it’s sad
I must confess
I’m proud of myself for not being too mad.
I am glad I saved my cash,
And instead raided my chocolate stash.

Poem #3: Meander, Take Time

Gooey-eyed, with a ring as my ultimate goal,
My mother drove north on I-15, leaving me in her wake.
I went to classes
I took tests
(failed many)
I went on dates
(perhaps too many)
I lacked vision.

Three years later
Gripping the flaky leather steering wheel,
I turned into the base gate
Made my way to a beige and faceless building
I picked up a syllabus
(I missed them)
Touched the words on the page
(I missed them)
Doubted I’d succeed
(out of practice)

One year later
Four classes at once
A changed major
A changed mindset
A ring no longer my goal
I read voraciously
(Hawthorne, Anderson, O’Connor)
I wrote incessantly
(journals, papers, bibliographies)
I glimpsed a future I’d not before seen
(college graduate)

Five years later
Flanked by my father and my brother
We pose in front of a tree
Black square hat, black square gown
(Blue tassel)
We drive downtown
(despite traffic)
I walk across a stage
A vision starts to unfold:
A Career
With accompanying endless opportunities
A vision I could not see nine years prior
I focus
I move
I choose
I succeed