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Teaching and Writing During the Pandemic as Compared to Now

I looked back at my notes from the year 2020 at the end of the month of July. What I noted about this period of time is that I had to take extra training to teach online. My old community college, a place that treated me with transparency and respect, issued an online teaching certificate course that I completed before the beginning of school. I also spent hours and hours moving content to an online platform. This meant I made a ton of new files, busied myself by scanning books and worksheets into the learning management system for my students, and saved that material in my MacBook and in the cloud. The reality is that the pandemic made me a better prepared teacher, but I received no support or pay for this extra work.

In my end of the month reflection, I wrote this:

Could we be headed for a civil war? This has been a month for the record books. It started out pretty happy with the Fourth of July celebration and my son going with me to visit our hometown. And then it kind of lurched off into an oddly sinister month with continuous political strife, protests both violent and peaceful, super hot temperatures, and drastically rising Covid cases. I guess I will have to start setting up my classes, and I don't know what to do with them. I am confused about making these modules for the community college. I'm also worried about going back to school. I've been so sick, so many times, and I have no reason to believe that I won't catch Covid just like I catch everything else. This is so scary!

One goal that I had at that time was to create a fluid and integrated presentation that I could modify daily, and I managed to do this by using my iPad as a document camera. Rather than rely on a software program, I decided to create visuals that the students could enjoy and imitate. By doing this, I was able to integrate visual literacy into the remote classroom. All of this sounds so smooth and easy, but I struggled. I spent many hours working on materials. And now I am struggling again. I am struggling because someone decided that their timeline supersedes common sense and human decency.

This July, instead of attending social events and working on my class materials, I am in a crack. I am in this crack for no good reason whatsoever. I have heard numerous excuses, but at the end of the day, none of them add up to professionalism. I am asking that my readers say a little prayer for me. I am also going to once again reiterate the obvious. Teachers do not need hoops to jump around in. Teachers need respect and money. The fact that we are in this shortage crisis is not because teachers are making great salaries and experiencing strong support. This crisis is happening because teachers are tired of chaos. I have seen the lowest performing people receive the highest rewards. I have seen administrators brush off teachers in need of help. I have heard the silliest remarks. Teachers need help, not ridicule. This month I have read communications that suggested that I didn't know the difference between rhetoric and a pet bird. Some of these communications are ridiculous and borderline abusive. I allowed these communications because the writer may not understand the concept of audience; the writer could be overwhelmed or new to the job. You never know what kind of information a person feels compelled to act upon. But this example of this terrible communication style is one of the reasons that the teaching profession is withering on the vine. And of course the fact that facts matter, not silly opinions or gossip.

In the end, I believe the month of July, during the perilous 2020 pandemic year, felt more accomplished and productive. That is sad.


Credit to unknown meme artist 🌹

Why Visiting Craigslist Can Lead to a New Relationship


    For the first, and only time in my life, I clicked around on Craigslist and ended up in a new love affair. The object of my affection is a two-year old parrot-like little bird with glossy green, red, and blue feathers, a Conure. I adopted him from a sweet little lady in Willis that lives in a bona-fide ‘tiny’ home. Her daughter and two grand-children were about to occupy the empty space in her front yard in a trailer, and this meant that she felt uncomfortable keeping the little bird with so much going on. I agree with PETA, birds are meant to fly and not climb around in cages, so I am happy that I adopted my feathered friend and didn’t buy. He should be able to live in good health for at least 18 more years, so that means he might actually outlive me if he doesn’t have an accident or illness.

    His previous pet-parent explained that my bird takes a bath every day, and I felt skeptical about her claim until I saw his enthusiastic scrubbing in his cereal-bowl-sized, stainless bath tub. He started out by dipping his little neck and face, scrubbing and plucking, and then he jumped in and did a full body wash—he looked so serious and sweet splish-splashing around. I think he felt a little chill after bathing, sitting on his perch with his feathers all poofed out. He looked like a big feathery and glowing, dignified, green ball with a sense of pride and vanity. But then after drying a bit, he started jumping around and squawking like he always does. I carried his cage out to a sunny place on the porch, and he stood on his perch with his eyes closed just soaking in the sun like he was dreaming of some faraway beach or tropical paradise.

    He has a name, but I haven’t been able to determine whether or not he is actually answering to it, but I do know that I’ve already spoiled him. He likes fruit and leafy greens, fresh. And if he doesn’t get his treats early in the morning he squawks and fusses at the top of his lungs. Sometimes at night he feels grumpy. His bedtime is early, by nine. Last night I tried to lure him out of his habitat and onto my hand, but he bit down on my finger as hard as he could, wiggling his jaw to make sure it hurt. I realized he was just tired and wanted me to leave him alone. He is adorable and sweet, and I couldn't have found a better relationship clicking around on Craigslist. But I'm not doing it again!



Doing Research in Education: A Writer's Dilemma in the Age of Trump and Devos

I'm at an impasse in my research and in my paper, and I think I've just become sick of the battle for public education. I am sick of this battle because in the age of Trump and Devos I am losing hope. Even though teachers and other stakeholders have come forward with proof that accountability based statewide standardized testing is lowering the quality of student educational experience, nobody, no matter how loud their voice, is able to make any significant changes.

My paper, heavy on criticism and blended with pedagogies that have been made near extinct by policy, is a just another tired, old dialogue to throw on my scrap heap of other various complaints. For example, I am sick of sharing the road with drivers that haven't bothered to license up for even the most basic of journeys. I am talking about the privileged teacher, the ones working in charter schools, the ones with no certification and no advanced degree. I believe those teachers should be made to go back to school and do it all again. You actually need some background on human and child development, some literature courses, and an awareness of composition theory. You need a practicum or student teaching cycle. You don't become an expert in the English department just by trying to teach the subject. We wouldn't say that about any other occupation, so why are we allowing this to happen in our classrooms? Students are not lab rats; experimenting with them is wrong.

At any rate, I do have a variety of places to go with my paper. I could write about how standardized testing, and these lower standards for teachers, have interfered with an expressivist and critical writing pedagogy in the English classroom. I could write a vitriolic, complaint paper based upon my most recent experiences, but what would be the use? Writing a vitriolic and angry paper would help me blow off some steam, but I don't believe it will help my students. Even so, I have had certain people without even a basic understanding of the writing classroom come into my world and try to make sense of it. They remind me of how lost I would be in a chemistry class, and I wonder why they think they have the expertise to criticize any methods in an English class. I have heard some of the most ridiculous comments from people like that, and I could weave them into my paper for entertainment purposes, but would that help anyone?

I could write about the development of the STAAR writing prompt, and I could make the argument that it lends itself to a formulaic and reductive pedagogy. The STAAR prompts are intended to fit any ethnic or economic demographic, but they fall tremendously short of this goal. I could show the reader why they discriminate, and I could offer some solutions for fixing the prompt. I could write about the history of expressivist writing in high schools, and discuss why it works with marginalized populations. But what would all of this mean for me? What would I learn from this?

Anyway, I am at the classic writer's crossroad, that place where picking up the pen has become a chore rather than a thrill. But no matter what, this writing has to happen. After this, I can write whatever I want... and, believe me, I will 😊That piece of vitriol might happen anyway.


My Brother and Vietnam

The Blade


My brother’s life had a very tragic ending. He was fifty-three when he died in the veteran’s hospital. I watched him suffer in a life that offered him no relief from the paranoia. He came home from Vietnam with glassy, angry eyes, and a hard bitter mouth. He was too quiet, too observant, and even though we didn’t know at the time, he was suffering from shock. The military sent him back for a second tour. He walked point again with his pistol and a knife. He hid in canals with leeches sucking the blood out of his veins; he cut throats and shot the enemy. When he got home after that tour he rarely put his knife down. He snapped the blade in and out constantly; he threw it long distances hitting targets with amazing accuracy. He could move around the house like a ghost, and hinted he could slip in and out of any building he wanted. I was just a little girl trying to start school and he terrified me. My heart would pound, and I could barely breathe when he came into the room. He never hurt me, but I was afraid he would accidently do something terrible. I loved him desperately, and my heart was broken. The brother I knew was completely gone, and I would have given my life to see him get well. Gradually, we adjusted to the problems he caused us. Slowly, we became a little bit like him so we could comprehend what he was putting us through. Several years later we were forced to remove him from our lives. We drove him out to highway 81, and my mother opened the door for him. An empty feeling crept into my heart that night; it was almost as if she had abandoned me on the side of the road. It was many years before we ever saw him again. The lessons my brother taught me: his view of the government, and the American cover up of the Vietnam catastrophe are components that predetermined my outlook and explain my unwillingness to trust authority, or accept the surface motives of any individual, or organization.


He is another dimension of me; the side of me that weeps hysterically. He lived in complete dependence on drugs, alcohol, and street wise wisdom. The tragedy we were learning to accept was that we were losing a man who should have become a great writer or teacher. His IQ was extremely high and he used to love to show off his knowledge and skill. But when he came back from Vietnam his vanity and personal style had disappeared. He taught me to be wary of people who were concerned about the way they looked in the mirror. He hated materialism, advertising, capitalism, and superficiality. He preached his ideas to me, his small captive audience. Too afraid to run from him, I started to listen. He was passionate in his beliefs. He could tell you the names of the arms makers and who the corrupt politicians were. He believed The United States of America was becoming a mutant fascist state. Our president was nothing but a puppet, and the authentic power rested in the hands of an elite secret group. He hated the middle class most of all. Not what we now label as middle class; he meant the nouveau-riche, the greedy, the white trash. I find myself influenced by his ideas even now when I occasionally read about a business person, or politician, that has risen to power barely competent enough to string two words together. I see the person as he does: snot-faced, dirty, greedy, ignorant and toothless with grimy fingers clutching a buck.


He also warned me about drugs, forgetting that small children learn by example. I knew all about substance abuse by the time I was ten. It was the early 70’s and we listened to “The Doors,” and “Deep Purple.” His friends carried guns, syringes, and wads of cash rolled up neat in their front pockets. The hopelessness of needle addiction broke my heart. I knew who the junkie was; what they were; and why they were. I witnessed the terrible lie the needle told my brother and his friends. My soul ached with terror and pity; I just knew I would come home from school and find my brother dead in the house. We took a trip to Houston to the methadone clinic. We picked one junkie up, hoping to drop off another. My brother would not get out of the car.



And now I walk quietly past the corporate world and watch it from the corners of my eyes. Unlike my brother, I really have no aversion to money or material wealth; I just don’t want to acquire anything the way that they do. They are so cold, heartless, and numerical. Their tall buildings jut into the sky like shafts of ice, filled with people involved in mechanical paper sorting activity, looking for ways to compete, profit, and cheat. If he was wrong about anything, it was not about them. I dipped my toe into their glassy, incandescent pool just to see for myself; but the water was too toxic, too chilled, and I walked softly on hoping they never really noticed me. But for a long time after that experience I could hear my brother’s blade snapping, click click, behind me. I ran harder, and harder, until it stopped.



There were many reasons to respect my brother and his blade was only one of them. People he chose to share his views with had a sense he was possibly correct. His vision was not blurred; he was very intellectual and literate. It seemed as if he was really in on some terrible truth and we all needed to know what it was. My innocence about my country, certain individuals, and authority suffered a shattering blow; but it wasn’t an altering of reality that I regretted. Instead, I felt fortunate, as if I had eaten from the tree of knowledge and hence was safe. I became determined to never sell myself out, or support anyone or anything I perceived to be false. I had my guard up early, and I am thankful to this very day.



While he served in Vietnam, my brother received a Purple Heart, and it earned him a small article in the local paper. Private Jessica Lynch, of the Iraqi conflict, got captured riding on the lost lunch truck. Special Forces made a rescue at great risk. Yet, Jessica and her comrades were labeled heroes by the national press. She got a movie deal; my brother and his fellow soldiers were villified by the 1960’s public, or they were completely ignored. These attitudes, and injustices, convince me his vision was both accurate and prophetic.



I deal with the tragedy of my brother in the only ways I can. I remember and honor his military service, and I take pride in his wisdom. He was a daring foot soldier in the Vietnam War. He deserves a movie, a parade, and a chance to relive his life with his family; a chance he will never get. I emulate him when times are harsh, and I persevere as courageously as possible. But most importantly, I keep one precious fact tucked tightly in my heart: we were brother and sister at a terrible time in our nation’s history. It was not that he lacked love for me, or intended to take away my childhood. These problems connected to his experiences in Vietnam made it impossible for my brother to buy me ice cream and walk me to school. Instead he made me tough enough to walk by myself, and made it unlikely I will ever believe their story.

What My Dreams are Telling Me Today

Today I am sitting at my computer thinking about the pleasant dream I had last night, the kind of dream that lets you know that everything is on the right track again, convincing me that a fairy has been dusting my bed with positive energy every night for the last few weeks, my nightmares now a part of my blurred subconscious. 

Joseph Campbell, in an interview with Bill Moyers, suggested that we take the snippets of our dreams and write them down. He patiently explains to Moyers that the "body of the dream" has something to do with our "personal experiences" and that there is a clear difference between the mythic dreams of society, and the personal dreams that develop from the "inner psyche." 

But my own dreams are a strange mixture of classical epic hero and modern day anti-hero, the strange psychology of a working class woman struggling with issues similar to everyone else in my socioeconomic and professional world, but with a few exceptions. And maybe my exceptions are the dusty material of dreams, dreams that sway back and forth between the nomadic displacement of the lost and misguided, into the bright and colorful, the luminous dreams of human bonds that matter, such as true friends and loyal lovers.

None of us can ask Joseph Campbell what he thinks about our dreams, but we can read his books and pull some answers. And after reading almost everything he has published, I would venture to say that he would tell me that even though my dreams are as unusual as my life, my dreams are connected to all of the other dreams. I'm not the only lonely, nomadic, lost soul, nor am I the only woman with true friends and bonds that matter, but, instead, I am a part of all of the worlds that have come before, and I will remain a part of them, just as you will.


Moving and Unethical Landlords: the Trials

If I said I wasn't happy to write under my old banner again, well, I'd be lying! So much has happened this year that needs to get recorded, but I have been too busy to write for fun. What with teaching, taking grad classes, and looking after two dogs and a teenager, my calendar is full and I am overbooked. 

I had to move this June, and it was a real burden on my friends, my work, and my family. All I know is that if someone wants to become a landlord, then they should have to pass some kind of a mental health check, and also take a quiz on basic ethics. I was able to live in my old house for two years, but I knew when the lease expired that they were going to start acting weird; predicting that the greed meter would reach a new record, I choked back the tears and started packing.

My new office is much bigger, but I am not buying more resource materials. My bedroom is bigger, but I'm not adding any new boyfriends. The kitchen is bigger, but it has a gas stove, and I am very intimidated by gas. Besides, the air conditioner is at least 25 years old, and that's too old to do the job, plus the oven makes the house hotter than Hades. 

Logistically, this house is too far from my kid's school. This means I have to let him drive, and he did not inherit my gift of spatial reasoning. Having the ability to measure speed and distance is crucial to good driving, but my son is a dreamer behind the wheel. Guns and machetes concern me because, for the Houston road rage idiot, they are the weapon of choice. Not only that, I am just not comfortable letting my kid run around unsupervised in a car. It just seems like a crazy thing to do!

Anyway, I am about to start blogging a lot more. I am taking a class featuring Henry David Thoreau, and his diary is awe-inspiring. Not that my prose will ever compare to Thoreau's, but it would be fun to try. And I have missed my blog...so much! My old issue used to drive a lot of traffic, and I even had some commercial sponsors. I guess now that I have settled down into a more domesticated life people find me boring. 

Well, that's it for today...the blog about nothing has blogged itself out. Now I have to deal with the lost chihuahua in my back yard, then go wash my face and brush my teeth. I think I'll fix the chihuahua up with a kennel and a blanket. Yeah, that's a good idea!

Night world!

When it really isn't about you, even though you think it is!

It's Sunday afternoon, and I am way behind on lesson planning; but, I just had to share this poem today with my readers because I miss my writing, and it's not really about you. In fact, most of the time it is never about anyone in particular, but more about the general mood or tone of my life as I perceive it daily. And while divorce is good, I am currently without one, even though other kinds of formal documents are a consistent pest. In other words, be careful about how you interpret any poem...simply said, you bring your own reality into the framework and words of any artwork. The situation is unavoidable. You should never apply any reality to obvious fantasy.

I can remember reading something from the notes of John Steinbeck about how the people that hated him were angry if they thought he characterized them in his novels, but how they hated him even more if they suspected they were completely ignored. The people that hate me can go ahead and take their hate to the next level because, clearly, I could care less about their feelings come what may. 

But maybe this isn't really about you after all, and maybe it's still not absolute fiction. It's very possible that you are deeply loved by me, and, of course, you would never appear in any of my more negative suppositions. I am hoping that is the stance you prefer to take, whatever you are reading---the high road of poetry analysis.

My Protest


I object to your shaming technique.

My demonstration consists of my

movement away from you.


I’ve lost your all-consuming clutter.

The myriad of your trash, stacked

behind and before, below and beneath,

our shared space.


I’ve lost my sympathy for you,

                my desire

                                to help you

                                to understand you

                                to support you


My patience has abandoned me, along

with my antipathy.

                I have lost all feeling for you.


I’ve gained a flower of blue, calm attitude

blooming in a garden of peace,

a fresh space overlooking an emerald garden,

a recovery from your divisive, hateful, dramatic



I hold my perfect square of sunshine

between my fingers.


My protest is over…

Our divorce is complete.


Now think about this...the average reader would assume that I have just obtained my last middle aged right of passage---the divorce! Some other readers of this poem might think I have done the unthinkable---tossed my teenager out into the street!

I am not about to do that anytime in the near future. His behavior is impeccable! He is even neat...So, what could this poem be about? What inspired me to write this horrible little bit of anti-art? Okay, I will tell you. 

Something that truly offended and shocked me inspired this piece of angry junk. And if you were ever offended by something, then you know how it can stick in your mind forever until you cleanse it by writing it away. What I have seen over the years will without a doubt make it into some kind of a permanent record; but until then, please, be patient with me. My anti-art is simply my way of dealing with the present, while recording it for the future. 

Honestly, it is NOT about you :)


Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

Periodically, we all move into the mind numbing mode of disillusionment that pushes us into the blackest caves of our cranium, moving us closer to depression. We start to imagine our time as a force ticking past; we can hear the tick, tick, tick into the abyss of nothingness, but the bills march on, and the children continue to grow, and time shapes us into an older version of our beautiful, earlier self; normally a bigger version, a fatter version, a version with wrinkles, gray hair, folds of spotted skin, and unspeakable abnormalities.

This would all be acceptable if only one could find a sense of justice. Of course, something larger and more material than a "sense of justice" would be better: justice on a platter, or justice from the top, maybe justice that coincides with truthfulness, a justice that is not blind to reality. After all of the meanness, and the petty lies, the thievery, and the troll under the bridge whispering into the ears of a snickering fat butter ball, then we could all accept our place, and toil for less with more joy in our hearts.

And this joy would be for the queen's rapid packing, and the whining and sniveling know-nothing ignorance of a test passed too easily will flirt off into the dance floor of another time, and another place, and all of us will benefit from the justice of the dotted line on a highway headed north, back home where this constant back and forth, backstabbing mediocrity is accepted as normal, and the nasally whine of a voice too cheap, and too falsely dramatic, will fade into the muffled memories of a building meant to spread truth, and reveal justice.

Finally, after years of struggle, a flower will find time to bloom in a garden that was once toxic with hate, lies, insecurities, jealousy, and petty greed.

That will be the day.

Warning to New Teachers in Houston ISD

Good morning to all!

 Read this email from my union rep. This morning we also received an email that states the principals are being told they are not firing enough teachers.

This is the sick process education reform has created in big city districts. They just churn through teachers, especially new ones, as fast as they can with no regard to the person’s life, skill set, or qualifications. The harm they do to the students by destabilizing their neighborhood schools cannot be measured. They don’t care if you are a blazing success in the classroom; your teaching certificate is basically meaningless to the administration.

If you are a TFA recruit, you don’t even need to teach in your subject area, much less study for a certificate. You will get treated like royalty even though you only receive five weeks of training and never studied in the subject area you are selected to teach.

Last year a TFA recruit told me he was a political science major from Georgetown, and he had been assigned to teach “Applied Science.” He asked me in the hall, “What is applied science anyway?”

 In my case,

Chief of High Schools (Orlando Riddick): brand new to the job

School Support Officer SSO or SIO (Xochitl Davila) (otherwise known as regional superintendent): brand new to the job—Michelle Rhee wannabe---previously served at Lee HS as principal

Principal: 28 years old with no experience, and she comes from the lowest performing charter school in the state of Texas (Amber Wilson/Williams) Hope Academy--I believe it is a White Hat Management entity

Dept head: 26 year old TFA recruit with no subject area degree (communications) and no experience (Britney Maloney) Handpicked by Davila

 In the student’s mind, a standard classroom teacher is a disposable throwaway. They see no reason to follow the rules, do their homework, or take the exams seriously. They know the teacher will probably get fired, possibly in the middle of the year. They have no respect for their teacher, and no reason to believe their teacher has any ability to discipline or instruct.

This is the message inner city students have been receiving for over a decade. This is the message reformers convey to the students, the parents, and the taxpayer.

At new teacher orientation you are led to believe something much different; at the job fair, and in the media, you are told that working for HISD is wonderful, with a fair evaluation system, great pay, and fabulous bonuses.

Working at HISD is the biggest mistake I have ever made.

I was warned about education reform. I was told not to do this, and I didn’t listen.

 Honestly, I didn’t even know what “education reform” meant…I thought it was a bunch of talented people swapping ideas about how to best educate the children of poverty. I thought it would be fun, challenging, and engaging. In my ridiculous mind, I could see a group of teachers sharing ideas, lesson plans, and stories. I really believed I was going to learn something positive about public school. I didn’t know it was a scam engineered to deprofessionalize the teaching business, and hand the jobs off to cash strapped ivy leaguers that couldn’t find positions in their fields of study.

Now I know that people like Michelle Rhee made millions off the backs of the teachers she fired. I know that most of these people have cheated, including some in my own Apollo program. The Atlanta Journal Constitution even did a nationwide study, and can prove mathematically that these districts have failed to educate these students in spite of their “so-called” reforms. This wrong-to-right erasure math is indisputable…

As for me, I don’t need a study; I can tell everyone about the chaos, the achievement gap, the poverty, the filth, the lies, and the smokescreen.

 It is funny that Arne Duncan (Obama's Secretary of Education #erasetothetop) came out here and toured Lee HS with my SIO, and he listened to a few talented students, and the police cracked down on the school before his arrival, and they managed to sign up all of the students to some kind of college (mostly 2 year institutions) and convince Arnie that it is a “turnaround success.” But you only have to look at him closely to see he is a Walmart kind of guy. And now we have the privatization of the public trust…we have the Walton Foundation, The Broad Foundation, The Gates Foundation, and countless other vultures, and venture capitalists, including Pearson (the great testing empire), all throwing money to this “teacher witch hunt” fully engaged in the age-old philosophy of “you gotta spend a buck to make a buck.” So, they are making the bucks off of me and my students, and I am helpless to stop them.

I asked my leaders for help, but I was ignored.

 Subject: Conf. for the Record- 48 Hour Notice

 I have been getting phone calls from people who are entering meetings with administration that turn out to be Conferences for the Record.  Please disseminate this message to our membership:

 Upon entering a meeting, always ask, "Is this a conference for the record?"  ALWAYS! Never assume they are calling anyone in to have coffee.  A conference for the record will go into the employee file.  It will, usually, entail some kind of adverse, punitive action against the employee. Therefore, always, always, preserve your right to representation and request that I be present during these CFR's A CFR should always have a 48 hour notification attached to it. Respectfully, decline to participate in the meeting if the administration confirms it is a CFR.  Advise them that I (employee) will be more than happy to participate in the CFR as soon as I secure representation. 

I have been told, repeatedly, today that the principal said the SIO is on the way to fire you if you don't resign.  DO NOT RESIGN!  IF YOU RESIGN, WE CANNOT RESCIND THE RESIGNATION!!!  It is better to err on the side of caution.  Call if you're in doubt.  This is your career, your future.

 Corina Ortiz,
Representative- Houston Federation of Teachers
3100 Weslayan, Ste. 255
Houston, Texas 77027


The Fight Today

    This morning I am all of the faults my Grandmother detested: contemptuous, fatigued, imposed upon, and impatient. I never asked to come here, and my tenure has turned into a trap of sorts, a place I can walk away from; however, if I do, then I will self-destruct and all of my arrows will have missed the mark. A vision of my Grandmother passes before me dressed in her starched apron, her hands kneading the dough, a soft breeze rattling her screen door.

    We will all forget, as soon as humanly possible, the spoilt and petulant, slightly plump little valley girl feigning credentials, yet possessing none, but still allowed to trounce on the souls of hard working, dedicated professionals she perceives beneath her. But, in the academic world, she is simply nothing but a communications degree that failed to make a west coast splash, a loser of plump proportions, a twit beyond description.

     And in the hallways a woman creeps like a lizard peeking into the rooms, searching for fault, and when finding nothing, she constructs a drama from thin air, and she weaves these falsehoods to support the plump and gelatinous, the petulant and feigning. We watch these actions in horror, from behind our glasses, and our dependents look on helplessly, some of them resisting injustice, and others tricked by the duplicity, all of them cheated by the sheer force of the inept and incompetent leadership of our establishment; the falsehoods created to destroy me are openly discussed in the hallways, and this undermines my authority; I am defeated.

      I check under my eyes, and they are darker than ever with lines forming on my cheeks below, and after another bout with the illogical and duplicitous, I wipe a frustrated tear off my cheek, and I grit my teeth for another round because we have never had more to lose, and I do not want to disappoint my Grandmother.

      After all of my years on the docks, the roadways, and the cities and towns of  North America, and after all of the rough characters that have passed in and out of my life from the communities around the world, and after all of my experience, the scholars, the sages, the poets, the chiefs, the professors, the professionals, the workers, the soldiers, and the quitters, after all of these lessons, I was still not prepared for the disgraceful spectacle I now witness—a spectacle of negativity that completely derailed the future of an entire urban neighborhood.

     I question why our supreme leader sits on his hallowed throne and allows this scandal to continue, and I am answered by a poet with underworld connections,

“It is his golden rod, and those who parlay to kiss its tip are whisked away by a magical lizard.”

   My poet winks at me, and I nod in confusion unraveling the riddle, and pondering its meaning. I rock back on my heels, and my sudden laughter fills my vacant room as I comprehend the absurdity of our dilemma: the carnal weakness of man.

 In the world hereafter, I know my Grandmother is smiling.

Writing about a Book

Writing a book has always been my dream, and recently I shared this idea with a scholarly friend that knows the story of my life. My friend sat and thought a bit, and then she remarked, "Well, for a book you need characters. Have you got any ideas? You need a well planned plot, and a worthy protagonist. What are you thinking about?" I had to laugh when she started asking about characters, because I have plenty of them. Some have created a constant background noise throughout my life; flat, not well-developed, and in my story, cowardly followers sipping from the same toxic well. Of course, these followers have plenty of dialogue, lots of hysterical ideas, and can move the plot forward just by the sheer force of their insipid arrogance. In a good play, you would see them whispering in ears, and tip-toeing about the stage tripping over their own self righteous, forked tongues, walking a dog, maybe catching a cab. Cowards are in abundance.

My scholar reached across the table for her cheap little eyeglasses, and then she wanted to know more about my supporting roles, and main character.

"The supporting roles are easy," I told her. "My main character is very independent, and this is why she is hated." "Yes," she snapped, "but even supporting characters are not always supportive of the main character. What a ridiculous conversation we are having!"

It is a "ridiculous" conversation, but one I must have, because my life is no longer about me, and neither is my book. Instead, my story should focus on the faults of the flat character: cowardice, ignorance, jealousy, and selfishness. Instead of allowing them to languish around in the background of my story, I should bring them to the light. I should show them to my world, and I should reveal their flaws, and their failure to create a thesis for their life, their inability to understand harmony, rhythm, and the techniques needed to manipulate an empty page. Never mind that flat characters are technically lacking traits both positive and negative, my composition will endeavor to redefine the 'flat' character, and give it dimensions. I shall move one of these cowards up to center stage, and give it a name.

But, that's a bad idea, because I would spend all of my time trying to humanize a character not worth knowing. My story would no longer be about the best of life, but about the filth, and suddenly I understand why this painful story is so hard to tell. My friend and I are back to the beginning. She orders a drink, and I stare out the window…thinking.

"You need a metaphor. Your book must stand for some principle. What is your principle? What symbol will you use?" I laughed again, as I thought of the symbols in my life: the winding white line along the roadway, the quill, a signature dog, and the number seven. None of my symbols were worth a dime, unless I equated a dog turd with the characters in my life; then, maybe, I could go places. "I am dry on symbols," I replied fretfully, as the image of a dog turd floated around in my brain. "I simply have nothing good to say. I see no way to win with so many flat characters."

But, I have to.