Homes

Poems

Years from now they’ll sift the top layers

Of our homes and separate us into the communal-loving

Apartment dwellers and the staunch people

Of the stucco mansions.

 

We will be reconstructed as always-at-war

And they will decide that

That is the reason for our so many miniature tanks.

 

We will be found to have littered the earth

With our disposables and yet walked upright,

Some of us, like giants or ants-on-fire

Never far from the earth and with our palms

 

Always curled up in defense. There will be no need

To track our existence by the stars

Or the one great dawn lifting up our oceans.

They will lift the ground of our souls out of us like you

Would lift, with one hand, a hollow skull.

Soft Skills: A Thank You Note for Wayne Zade

Poems, Teaching Notes

In 1995 I wore long shorts and a class ring and I stepped into your office with a handful of poems.

By 1999 I was a traveler and a deconstructionist and I returned to your office to sit, embraced by your walls of books, and hear the jazz.

You told me about Rilke, Ashbury, and Coltrane. We listened to Seamus Heaney, to Quincy Troupe, to Ornette Coleman. And I kept coming back—

From New York to Iowa—by way of Norman Dubie, Murakami, Lady Day—From here to there! New poem to another new poem. You told me, without telling me, how to keep your calling close, like a halo of lamplight around the fragilist part of you.

In 2002 I was mountaining and floundering and businessing and marrying. But I didn’t forget.

In 2006 I was a poet and it was because of you.

In 2009 and again in 2012 I thought life was breaking me—But then I remembered that, once, you said my poetry reminded you of Chet Baker. So I came back.

In 2014 an 8th grader bested the high schoolers in a Poetry Slam that made my whole body smile and I—I was his teacher!

In 2015 I brought my own students with me and sat beside you at a classroom table and talked about books again.

Though I still hope I’ll be remembered for my angel-throated words, my revolutionary, post-punk ideas, I realize it will really be because of the artists I teach from my own life-crafted room.

And whenever I think I don’t need mentors anymore because I have become one, I realize that the soft skills in my life originated in your lamp-lit office. And I’ll always want to come back.