Wednesday, January 9, 2013

bad late-night haiku for the start of the semester

late at night, candles
flickering on the mantle,
wine in my glass, my

brain in the mud, my
soul steps closer to empty.
before i begin

to teach, i begin
to defend: my syllabus--
once a page or two--

too long to copy,
off to the printers. like the
urban mockingbird,

who nightly sings the
song of cell phones, garage door
openers, and car

horns distinctive and
varied, my poor syllabus
repeats its three-note

pleas, its legalese,
its tape-looped instructions, all
to be heard above

noise not worth hearing
anyway.  longer, louder,
over and over,

binding and airless,
lacking the mockingbird's art
while plagiarizing

his technique.  meanwhile,
the emails roll in, grubbing
for last semester's

grades or last-minute
begging for overrides, none
of it inspiring

any kind of song
from me beyond this frequent
refrain: where is that

wine?  is this my life?
a three-note song, repeated
louder and longer

each year and without
artistry.  i remember
a late-night walk in

d.c., a song so
lovely and strange that i stopped
to find its source, a

mockingbird, its voice
so loud and beautiful, at
times odd but always

persistent, always
innovating.  if i had
the ability

to adapt to these
times, i would still need to sing
a repetitious

tune, but i'd repeat
the beauty and the whimsy
and the garage doors

and the jackhammers--
the necessary music
and not merely the

noise required to
construct a syllabus or
life in three small notes. 


  1. This is really remarkable. I mean I love it. Thank you for posting it.

  2. Wonderful! Beautiful image, Greta, and beautiful execution (though I worry about the note of despair -- not just misery -- conveyed therein; I hope the writing itself helps, even a bit).

    One very minor quibble: on this side of the pond, I think you've got a mockingbird, rather than a nightingale. But mockingbirds bring up literary allusions as well; there's a reason, after all, why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird: because they make beauty out of so little, and some of that, at least on the surface, ugly.

    Thanks for being the CM nightingale/mockingbird, Greta. May your semester go better than anticipated.

  3. Contingent Cassandra, you are correct--and thank you! I drafted this late last night and knew that something was bugging me about it. I've made the change and I think it improves the verse beyond just making it correct. I did have to sacrifice something in one line to do so, but I don't think it's anything that anyone notices about my poems anyway, so it's no big deal. Thank you again.

    As for the is real and soul-sucking but that's why I put it into verse. Somehow, trying to craft something out of it--no matter how crappy and amateurish the result--provides a kind of therapy. While an all-out rant is often the only way to vent and is useful in its own glorious way, when I get the real blues about the profession, I need to try to work through it this way.

  4. I nominate Greata as Poet Laureate of CM.

    On a slightly different note, one of my favorite sayings comes from a story about three different shoguns of Japan. "If the nightingale will not sing, wait."