Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Circle Time



The teacher is singing, her voice

a bluegreen moss that softens the room.

I don’t know why I make a fist,

but I let my left hand land

on the back of the boy beside me.


It makes a sweet thump, as if

he is hollow inside. And I like it,

the sound of that thump.

And I do it again. And I do it

again, my fist a warm stamp


on his silence. The teacher

is singing, her voice a leaf

that whirls through the room,

and I hit him again, not

to hurt him, but because


the thump sounds so good.

The teacher stops singing.

She looks at me and the boy

and asks us what is happening.

He is hitting me, I say,


and the boy does not say no.

She sends him to the corner

to sit alone. This is when I learn

to lie. Beside me, the space

on the rug is silent as wool.


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After the training wheels come off

she wobbles and crashes and jumps up

to cry again. She pushes her helmet back

into place and rubs her hands of the gravel.

I force myself not to offer advice. Some

things must come from the center.

Vivian picks up the bike and straightens

the wheels, finds her place on the seat.

The pedals are not too far for her to reach.

She is ripe for this skill, and mostly willing.

She jerks on the handlebars, over rights

herself and falls again. There is such a thing

as too much right. She once told me

that if you do not learn to cartwheel

before you are eight, then you never will.

Something in the vestibular system, I wonder.

I don’t know if it’s true, but I do know

there are certain windows that close.

An eye that is unused in the first few months

of life will never learn to see, though

its parts are all in working order. Perhaps

there are windows for the heart, too,

so that if by a certain age it does not learn how

to get up and try again after it has fallen,

it will stay down and never learn how

to love beyond itself. Come on, I say under

my breath, you can do it, I say to my daughter.

And then out loud I say, Yes, yes, dear girl,

you are doing it. You are doing it, I say

as she falls, falls again, and gets back up.

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No Guarantees

It turns out I have loved
learning too much.
Star charts. Yeast. Omega 3s.
Tear fluid osmolarity.
Particle and wave.
I want so much to make sense
of things. Like why we have
so few words for smell.
Why only some birds sing.
Slave to purpose, slave
to the why, slave to the need
to know. I want to compare,
to contrast, to chart, to rank,
to graph, to prove. As if
that might tell me my place
in the world. So I pin down facts
like butterfly wings, splayed
and precise and dead.
Meanwhile the world expands, overflows,
moves beyond all that I think I know.
Let me live on questions. Let
me lose my absolutes. Let me be willing
to abandon my certainty. We are that
which breaks down the walls
of the learned—let me know this,
and unknow it, too.

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Five Ripples

reading in my journal
the lesson I learned two years
ago the same lesson
I was so thrilled
to learn today


I leave the dishes
when you say “let’s play,”
not because I want
to play but because the day
will come when you won’t ask


the veil
of hurt, though it
weighs nothing
I am utterly unable
to lift it


sowing poppy seeds
in the meadow together,
though it will be months
before we see stems
already I feel blossoming


what would be left
if we solved all our troubles—
just a breathing
sometimes when I get very still
I am still not still enough

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The edge is not so far out as I think.
See—it is shallow. The red and green fish
with thick purple lips tug on the coral reef.

I float between their feast and the terrible air,
battered by waves, surprisingly still, then kick,
feather my arms, flutter kick, and oh! The bottom

of the sea drops from so close that I think I will scrape
my knees to so deep I cannot see through the blue
to the bottom. I lift my head and note

that the shore is not so far away, but my god,
I think, I’m in deep. At the edge: Pink heads
of coral. A long, white fish with a long white nose. Black

spotted fish poking through the holes. And all that
bottomless blue. My body must look
like a floating exclamation point, but my mind is all

question mark. Am I safe? Is this real? How deep does it go?
What else lives here? What more can I see? Everything seems
worth noticing. I swim the edge as long as I dare.

Tell myself I must go in, there are children waiting there.
But part of me says, You’re are scared. I’m just learning
to wave, learning to deep, learning to tide,

learning to breathe at the edge where the tug
goes in all directions, even these places
where the light will never reach.

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And again she scoops air
into her cheeks, buoys her body,
and flops face first into the water,

her limbs, unsyncopated,
thrash with joy. She is all splash
then all snort, and she wretches

and belches the water, then smiles
wide enough for three smiles,
giddy with the wonder of floating—

how just an hour ago she didn’t know
that it would be today
that she would lift

her feet from the bottom and rise
to the water’s top. I wonder

how many pools I’ve been wading in,
waist deep, not knowing
the morning will come

maybe today, when I will stumble
and find all my weight is lifted,
supported, if only I relax.

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did it just start to
sing, that brown bird, or did I
just start to listen?


a night of fretting,
but the day comes in with a


that letter so much
more precious now that I
have lost it


once I took all the
books off the shelves, God arrived
with a blank page


the leaf just
a leaf


no pillow tonight!
the poem just grabbed a drum
and crooked its finger


but I don’t know how
to fly, I said, and God said,
start by falling


still cupped in my hands
this song hummed to me
seven years ago

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