Love Poem No 5

We watch the stars tonight.

They burn fiercely

against the black canvas.

 

“Look, the little dipper,” you say.

“Which one?” I ask.

You laugh.

 

We sit beneath the magic.

Two humans, wondering,

pondering for answers.

 

Our faces lost in the blackness,

Our eyes twinkle.

The frogs croak. The crickets chirp.

 

I lean my head against your chest.

You rub my hair.

You feel like home.

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Head of the class

I teach commas and stuff. Some of my students are high schoolers. Some are grandmas. More are in between. Nothing thrills me more than a classroom of students who are ready — or not — to hear about where the semicolon goes or where it absolutely doesn’t belong. Nothing thrills me more than when a student asks, “Ms Phile, could you look at this paragraph? Does it flow?” or “Hey, Ms. Phile, look at this sign I saw at the gas station. It’s missing an apostrophe. If I had a Sharpie I would have corrected it.”

Then there’s that point in the semester when all the papers, projects, and tests need grading.  Final exams are pending, grades are due. Everyone is exhausted and irritable and I begin to wonder why the hell I started teaching in the first place. I spend every waking moment —at my son’s baseball games, waiting at restaurants, sitting in meetings, at the stoplight— grading papers. Emails flood my inbox:

“Ms. Phile, can I have an extension on the paper?” (No way. You have known about the due date for six weeks.)

“Ms. Phile, Sorry I won’t be in class today. My pigs got loose. I’m not even kidding.” (True story.)

“Ms. Phile, I can’t come to class today or the rest of the week because my grandmother died.” (Hmmmm . . . that’s the third time she’s passed away. Obviously a very, very serious illness.)

“Ms. Phile, I know I haven’t done much this semester, but can I get extra credit?” (You can’t get extra credit when you didn’t get regular credit.)

“Ms. Phile, I know I didn’t turn in the past four papers, but can I turn them in still? I promise I did them.” (I can’t even reply to this one.)

And my favorite how-to-endear-yourself-to-the-teacher, cringe-worthy question:

“Ms. Phile, sorry I missed class yesterday. Did I miss anything important?” (Ouch.)

At this point in the semester I’m thinking I may go back to school for something else, maybe carpentry or piano tuning or snake charming. But, the truth is the magical moments when a student lights up and “gets it” make my job amazing. The moment when a student’s writing improves; the moment when a student overcomes the fear of talking in front of others; the moment when I notice students teaching each other. Those moments keep me from getting a basket and a flute.

Let me invite you into my classroom: Research papers, which they have been working on for 6 weeks, are due tonight by 11:55 p.m. I walk into a room of talkative students and one, who I will call Matt, pipes up from the back row:

“Ms. Phile, what will it take for you to extend the due date until tomorrow? Money? Donuts? Reese cups? I know how you love Reese cups.”

“Matt, you’ve known the due date for six weeks. It’s in stone.”

An older student in the front row, who probably finished his research paper two weeks ago, rolls his eyes and mumbles under his breath, “I don’t envy your job.”

My 11 years of teaching flashed through my brain — whirlwinds, valleys, mountains, mostly mountains.

“I don’t know why not. You should,” I said.

 

Found

I seek you in the smell

of freshly cut grass.

In the peppermint certs

you carried in your pocket.

I seek you in worn pages

of your NIV Bible.

I seek you in freshly brewed coffee.

In basketball games

outside the garage.

In reruns of The Three Stooges

and Gilligan’s Island and

you move me, dearly.

I seek your smile that always

filled my soul with warmth.

“You are my sunshine,

my only sunshine…”

you sang to me.

I wish my love for you

was strong enough to

make you stay.

But then again, it was,

and you did.

Poem for Gramps

A Night Out

It was a brisk Saturday night and we ventured up to Raleigh. Destination: The Cheesecake Factory.

“Shouldn’t we make reservations?” I asked.

“Nah, we should be good,” he said.

The drive was uneventful until we pulled into the parking lot of the Crabtree Valley Mall. The cars maneuvered like ants marching to a fallen morsel of chocolate chip cookie. After 20 minutes we found a spot deep in the parking garage’s Siberia section — nestled between a blue SUV and a white Ford Ranger. Taste buds at attention, we hiked to the mall and upstairs to The Cheesecake Factory. Men, women and children littered the hallways, many sitting on the floor. The noise overwhelmed my brain.

“They must be waiting for take out . . . or something,” I mumbled.

“Probably,” he said.

We filed in, took spots at the end of the line and inched up slowly. My stomach growled.

“What was that?” he asked with a laugh.

“What was what?” I said.

Pictures of luscious cheesecake covered the walls. Strawberry, chocolate, salted caramel. My mouth watered.

Minutes ticked by. We inched deeper into the chaos. Finally, we arrived.

“How many?” the hostess asked.

“Two,” he said.

“OK.” She tapped something on the screen of her computer and handed us a blinky piece of plastic.

“How long will that be?” he asked.

“Oh, about an hour and 45 minutes.”

He looked at me. I looked back and shook my head. No way. My stomach screamed.

“We’re good,” he said and handed her back the blinky thing.

We walked out, picking our way through the standing, sitting and leaning bodies, past the pictures of cheesecake — salted caramel, chocolate, strawberry.

“Where do you want to eat?” he asked.

“Somewhere without an hour and 45 minute wait.”

He took out his phone and began to search.

I willed him to hurry. My stomach rumbled like the mating call of a moose.

“What the heck was that?” he asked, trying not to laugh.

I didn’t answer.

He tapped a number into his phone.

“Hi. Uh, how long is the wait for a table for two?” he asked.

“Two hours.” I heard a voice say. I gasped.

“Thanks,” he mumbled and clicked off.

“Let’s just go to McDonalds,” I suggested.

“No McDonalds. What are you craving?”

“Cheesecake.”

“What about seafood?”

“That too.”

He tapped his phone and began searching.

“Red Lobster is 3 miles from here,” he said.

“Good.”

After 20 more minutes freeing ourselves from the parking garage, we were on the road to our third choice.

We parked, shuffled out of the car and walked up to the hostess stand.

“How many?” she asked.

“Two, but how long is the wait?”

“Forty-five minutes,” she said.

I groaned, but at least there wasn’t an hour before the 45. We were handed another blinky piece of plastic, and the minutes ticked by as we sat by the lobster tank.

After the full three-quarters of an hour mostly spent staring at crustaceans with bad intent, we were seated in a distant a corner. An angel appeared, eyes bright and smile wide, movements fluid and secure.

“Welcome to Red Lobster! My name is Penny. What can I get you to drink? Oh wait, I always start with the lady first.” She turned and grinned at me.

She filled my soul with warmth . . . and cheesy biscuits, creamy seafood dip and chips, boiled shrimp covered in butter, sweet coconut shrimp, and garlic lemon tilapia.

“This,” I said in between bites of pretty much everything, “was worth the wait.”

He nodded.

She kept appearing to fill our drinks and bring us more cheesy biscuits.

He asked her if she was in school.

“No, I’m a mommy and I work here on nights and weekends.”

“Boy or girl? How old?” he asked.

“A little boy. He’s 6.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket to show us a gorgeous kid with her eyes and smile. He held a soccer ball and grinned back at us.

He tipped her way more than 20 percent that night, and when she realized it, she bounced back to our table.

“Thank you so much! No, really, thank you!” she exclaimed.

Then it was his eyes, that wonderful blend of blue and green, that sparkled.

 

 

Love poem no 4

We were seated in the back corner of Red Lobster.

The third place we had stopped that night.

The first was an hour and 45 minute wait, the second 2 hours.

We waited a ravishing 45 minutes beside the lobster tank, but finally we sat.

 

She appeared, eyes bright and smile wide, movements fluid and secure.

Welcome! My name is Penny. How are you all today? What can I get started for you?

Oh wait, I always ask the lady first. She turned to me and grinned.

 

She filled my soul as she brought those warm, delicious cheese biscuits,

creamy seafood dip and chips, boiled shrimp covered in butter, grilled tilapia.

We devoured our meal, and you chatted with her, asked her if she was in school.

No, I’m just a mommy and I waitress here. How old? You asked. Boy or girl?

Boy, 6.

Her eyes sparkled yet again.

 

You tipped her way more than 20% that night, and when she realized this

she bounced back to our table.

Thank you so much! She said, Really, thank you!

Then it was your eyes— that wonderful blend of blue and green—

that glistened and sparkled.

You can spend.

your whole life.

locked in your own head.

feeding those demons.

growing them.

until they completely take over.

and control every part. of you.

you deserve better.

you deserve better than a

prison. built by your own mind.

stop giving them life.

deplete.