Thursday, November 26, 2009

Two Poems (to be thankful for)

I teach at a school that could easily stand in for the American Night Preparatory School for Adults found in The Education of H*y*m*a*n K*a*p*l*a*n. But instead of teaching Jews from Europe, living on the Lower East Side in the '30s, I'm teaching Jews from Iran, living on the outskirts of Beverly Hills in 2009. I also teach a lot of Koreans, and one of them— I'll call him the Professor—is one of my most devoted students.

When I started teaching I used Shel Silverstein's poetry to stimulate conversation. One poem in particular drove the Professor mad. The title of the poem was a play on words, but he couldn't understand what 'a play on words' meant. "God's Wheel," I told him, "could also be taken for God's will." He fought the idea like crazy, telling me I was wrong, but then a little while later I saw that he'd gotten it. His eyes sparkled and his whole body softened. For the next few weeks the Professor brought in poems he'd written, powerful poems, deep poems, poems that must have been burning inside of him for a long time.

Here's one he brought in a few weeks ago:

"The Ocean you can't see"

You walk,
eat, and sleep on the bottom of an ocean.
The ocean is really
an invisible ocean of air
that covers the world like the skin of an orange.

The air you breathe,
the air that blows in your face as a breeze,
the air that smells like dinner cooking,
and the air that can carry the sound
of your voice when you speak.


Last week Lu sent an exuberant email from NYC, a poem in itself. Here it is (taking liberties with phrasing):          

[I]t is brilliant fall                                                                
and the ginkgoes in Central Park are ablaze                        
and the river
the river is surging and swelling


Happy Thanksgiving!            




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