The Sunday Poem: Merimee Moffitt...A Poem to My Teaching Career

Good morning to you, Duke City! Rich Boucher here. Tired but ready. Always ready, even if I'm not ready. What did you DO last night, Albuquerque? Did you go out? Did you go to a club or see a movie or drive up to the peak to watch the sky explode? I’m trying to remember what I did; I know it was something good, but all I know right now is that I’m somnambulating through my kitchen towards the Keurig to get some coffee going. I might have only one sock on. I might. They should make a device that hooks up to your body that IV’S you coffee about one hour before you wake up, so that by the time you’re awake and out of bed you've had a cup of coffee, but you don’t consciously know you've had a cup of coffee. There’s potential for trouble there, but think how much more you could do with coffee ALREADY IN YOU by the time you open your eyes in the morning. Listen carefully now, carefully now; it's time for a poem...

...So: I love this intense, uncompromising work by Merimee Moffitt, and I'll tell you why. I love that this poem is a rant and a carefully-designed manifesto and a list poem all at once. I love that this thing is chock full of literary references mixed in within the personal asides/testimony here and there throughout the text. This poem is not suffused with only just one emotion: it’s complex (“I miss them a little, the unknown students of Fall 2013”) and funny (“I will not snap off the heads of those who offend me”) and thought-provoking (“I will not have to mention the patriarchy or who washes the toilets”) all in the same breath. This exasperated, invigorated long breath exhalation of a poem. I like that the reader really needs to come correct when they arrive at the  tight phrasing and panoramic view of this writing; Merimee will only wait for so long for you to catch up to all of her references. We’re called, when we read this poem, to wonder if she's wanting us to also go forth and say these things to ourselves, if we're meant to make our own manifestos, if we're called, upon hearing this poem, to do likewise and say with confidence those things that we will not do (as well as the things we will). If a poem can stir someone to go all the way there, to that dimly-lit chamber inside where the only thing one can do is examine and conclude, then I'd say the poem has far exceeded the expectations anyone can reasonably place on a good piece of literature. Wouldn't you agree? 

I asked Merimee what her favorite thing about Albuquerque is, and she had a good, fair bit to say: "My favorite thing about Albuquerque? That’s like picking a favorite food, or friend, or child. Ok—let’s try this: Albuquerque, tantrum throwing though she is, does know when to get up and when to go to bed.  No matter when the birds wake me, there is always some eager, sunrise-loving enthusiast, running, jogging, walking, wheeling, biking, dog walking etc., before I can get my first cup of tea.  Soon as the sun crests the Sandias, someone is out enjoying exercise.  And the same thing happens at night. Neighbors. My neighbors talk, say hello—are nice people generally. Wherever I go around town, as long as I can shine my lights and live in gratitude, there are Albuquerqueaños with good attitude.  People are friendly. People here are not caught in the hipper-than-thou contest; we are the city ordinaire. Our citizens are a book of good poems, each day a page I look forward to. With faiths ranging from pagans to zealots, we pretty much get along. I feel comfortable here though forty-two years in New Mexico does not me a local make; I still belong. I have a place as a desperado white woman, a renegade from the North West. I came for a visit and never left. How could I? The sun shines inside and out. I love the poets, politicians (even the ones I like to dislike), farmers, artists, musicians, journalists, carpenters, day care providers, educators and schools, shop keepers, bee keepers, utility workers, tree trimmers, students, candle makers, ristro stringers, dancers, Pueblos and indigenous, the cops, firemen, and nurses, etc. I like Albuquerque with its Route 66 turquoise belt right across its well-fed, Frontier-loving, belly full of green and red, enchiladas and tortillas. I married, raised my kids, and will most likely die here. Though I adored very much my nine years in Taos, Albuquerque is home." So marvelously and breathtakingly stated!

Merimee, the mic is yours...

A Poem to My Teaching Career

I am not teaching a class this term

I will not be teaching anything at CNMCC this term

I will not have a roster, a start and end time, an old green board to chalk on, a cubicle in a shared office, a classroom, a lock card, a parking sticker

I will not have a podium

I will not have a sea of faces judging or avoiding my eyes or smiling

or waiting for me to do something smart or dumb.

I will not worry about them at night, their sentences and reading resistances.

I will not teach a David Sedaris story or force feed it to them.

A few of them never laugh.

I will not keep carrots in the barn to lure them with, grades or accolades

I will not have to search for brilliance in them

I will not have a psychopathic bitch hissing through her teeth to “back off”

when I mention her sleeping in class is offensive

I do not have the energy to care whether they get out of bed in the morning or not

I will not fall in love with one or two or ten students this term

I will not meet one who might have been a friend for life

I will not have to mention conditional moods and perfect tenses

or matriarchal societies

I will not have to entertain them with dazzling selections of literature, Sharon Olds’ Marilyn Monroe poem about the ambulance drivers who moved her body. 

No Wislawya Szymborska on love or hate. 

I miss them a little, the unknown students of Fall 2013.

I will not write with them in workshop and bare my naked soul

My soul will not have to thump on the desk, for them to inspect or ignore or fear.

There will be no right or wrong, no rhythm or song in their poems, no metaphor. 

They won’t exist for me

I will not have to mention the patriarchy or who washes the toilets

I will not have to do a song and dance to get them to write something or anything

I will not have to wait in my office during office hours for them to be too early

or too late

I will not have to read previously unread drafts or essays so brilliant I am ecstatic

I will not have to teach “An Inheritance of Tools” or “A Modest Proposal”

I will not have to tell them a “Modest Proposal” is satirical

I will not have to snap off the heads of those who offend me

I will not meet new troops returning from Tribal Lands

or assign stories from “Just Another Soldier”

I will not have Christians wanting so bad to save me though I forbad it in my syllabus

I will write without the excuse of students squatting in my head

I will not have to explain the rules against homophobic remarks

and bullying in the classroom

I already miss the people I have never seen, like death or moving away

before they arrive

I will not continue to have friends who just drop dead—that has to end for a while

I will make a run for my 70s and teach next term because I have to see who might want to learn from me, anything, if I don’t go all Bartleby

I will not have loud mouths shouting from minute one when I walk in the room

I will not have guys almost my age trying to put me in my place,

anywhere under them

I am fully Bartleby the Scrivener, every day, the only Melville I really love. 

I prefer not to teach today

I will not again say “educare is Latin for ‘drawing out’.”  I prefer not to do that again

I imagine the first few hours in a course then my higher power pulls the plug,

says, “You are done for now.  Stay home and play.” 

I will not have to see “Old Crone” on Rate Your Professor.com or “amazing” or  “terrific” outweighing old crone thirteen to one 

I will not, this 68th fall of my precious life, have a class to teach.

Let that be a lesson and a prayer.  Amen.

---

About Merimee Moffitt, in Merimee's own words:  I left Portland in May, 1970, and could never move back. New Mexico enchants me still with its adobe and hollyhocks, red and green chilé, sun and nice people. I grew up in Taos around the age of 30+ then returned to school at UNM, married Randy, had two more kids, total of four between us, took tons of writing classes so I could have an excuse for writing, then had to get a job so I became a middle school teacher, and high school and CNM, all of, which lo and behold, suited me and was a magical career of terrific jobs. I loved teaching writing workshop to all levels of students, though I also taught a little math. High school and college and the yellow brick road of my teaching career finally morphed into the Oz of having time to write. Semi-retired or fully, I never know; I publish in all the local reviews and journals, teach workshops on ghazals and rhyme royals and memoir and co-host the only prose open mic, Duke City Dime Stories (see dimestories.org). My friends are poets and writers; for fun we listen to each other’s work at various venues around town and in Santa Fe. My first, big book of poems, Making Little Edens, is due out soon.

---

Poetry submissions are welcome. Email theditchrider@gmail.com.

Local Poetry Event News: Not only do we have today's I'll Drink to That show at 4 pm at the Tractor Brewing Company, which you should REALLY go to, but coming up soon, on Saturday, August 24 at 4 pm at Op Cit Books in Santa Fe, Belen poet Georgia-Santa Maria will be reading from her brand new book of poems (and photographs!), "Lichen Kisses". On the Facebook event page for this reading, Georgia writes, "Op Cit Bookstore is in Sanbusco Center, just West of the Downtown Santa Fe Station for the Rail Runner. Anybody wanting to ride the train up, it leaves Downtown Albuquerque at 1:46 PM and gets into Santa Fe at 3:15. The return train leaves at 8:09 PM, leaving enough time to have dinner in Santa Fe after the reading. Anybody for "Poetry on the Train?" Sound excellent to me! So there you have it - today at 4 at the Tractor Brewing Company and on Saturday, August 24 at 4 pm at Op Cit Books! That's 2 big FOUR PM literary and artistic events in a very short space of time!

Views: 200

Comment by Dee Cohen on August 18, 2013 at 8:37am

Great poem and greater to hear it out loud. Merimee will be featured along with Rich Boucher this Thursday at Fixed & Free's 5 year anniversary event at the Source on Carlisle.

Comment by Margaret Randall on August 18, 2013 at 9:02am

Terrific poem, Merimee. It perfectly captures the heady ambivalence between teaching and not teaching. The only question I am left with is whether not teaching this next semester was a personal choice or due to some cutback at CNMCC. But I guess that's beyond the limits of the poem.

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on August 18, 2013 at 11:06am

oops, line 2 needs "will" not "am" or some such--also all my love and hx to Georgia Santa Maria for the fun phote of me n the brass guy in Santa Fe.  sorry I missed the credit line.  No, for some reason they hane't cut me (I'm grateful) and I am assigned a class next erm. I'll see how my higher power deals with that.  I'munder the impression CNM needs another English teacher, at least one.  But their hire/fire behavior is beyond Earthly comprehension.  Thx, Margaret for your encouragng comments, and Dee, See you thursday Aug 22 at Fixed n Free.  rich and I actually PRACTISED our poem list.  xoxo

Comment by Rich Boucher on August 18, 2013 at 12:16pm

Merimee,

Please accept my apology for missing that typo in line 2 of this wonderful poem. I read this post at least two or three times before I posted it and somehow missed that. I'm so sorry about that.

Rich

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on August 18, 2013 at 1:41pm

me sorry too--probably I sent you a screwed up version.  Thanks for editing after the fact--I really appreciate that.

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on October 30, 2013 at 10:26pm

Hi Margaret, No, it's by choice and with a minor edit I can clarify that poetically!  I am choosing not to!  ahh, big pause while I try to say that in German without a dictionary--ach !

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