Wednesday, December 2, 2009

an afternoon, and an ode to Miller Williams

We had yet another graduation today. About an hour ago, Jonah walked out the front door of G House, carrying a white plastic garbage bag with all of his belongings, as well as a visible parcel of pride and sense of accomplishment. Jonah came to G House via a lock-up facility in western Massachusetts after he stabbed someone last March, blind drunk and high.

I'll miss Jonah. I know he's got a tough life to go back to, but he's developed a solid array of coping skills and behavior management techniques during his time here. He went up at least two grade levels in reading during the three months I spent with him. Sure, he has challenges, but he's also acquired some newfound protective factors in his life that might just be the difference for him. I'll remember Jonah in my prayers.

After graduations here at G House, classes are suspended for the remainder of the day, for what feels like a of two-period holiday. On days like this I find myself with extra non-instructional time, which I can fill with lots of tasks on my never-ending punch list. I could be doing lots of Title I-related paperwork, updating student individual reading plans and combined record sheets, calculating fluency rates, planning lessons. But what I'd rather do is put my feet up and read Miller Williams' beautiful poetry.

Williams has spoken of poetry as a modern day life support system in a time when we are so tempted to pull away from the world, when the world offers so much to withdraw from, when we feel so frequently the urge to want to be a little anaesthetized, or a little more than a little. Poetry is the real amidst the fake. It's the rhythm among the chaos. It's the reminder to see things like compassion, and relations, and the loveliness of order within language. Miller Williams writes in a way that when I read his work, I feel like I am touching a grounding wire. His poetry removes the static, the low grade anxiety that seems to go along with how it feels to go about my day, each day, in this day and age.

Williams reminds me of something I feel I need to remember in order to stay alive when he writes, "We need poetry as we need love and company. It's a matter, finally, of whether we bring into our lives the real thing, naked and demanding, or something we simply inflate to look like the real thing, which neither demands nor gives."

On my way home from work today, I am going to stop at a bookstore, purchase a copy of Mr. Williams' work, wrap it up, and give it to my husband for Christmas. I look forward to discovering it, over and over again, with him.

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