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Monday, October 31, 2011

The Cultivation of a Body

Teach my heart to pulse with purpose
Shake off yesterday's dirt and rinse your eyes
Throw the curtains wide and glide through the hours

Teach my hands to work with thanksgiving
Breathe cold and fresh anticipating everything
Paint a smile to share with your brother

Teach my mind to race the track undaunted
Inundate my synapses with beauty rare
Tromp the halls of time as a boy in his dad's shoes

Teach my eyes to look up at promise
Strike me down if I raise in defiance
Throw me over your shoulder when I trip

Teach my mouth to sing and comfort
Sew a lining around my words in silk
Praise the One of all account and love

Teach my being to swell and run over
Find its form and push out of the edges
Grow its stature in a shape overwhelming

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Flight of Little Old Me

I held precious hands and watched her toes curl and bend
as she yawns with a trust and hope all in a swirl and trend

I have held his failing hand as he watched the ceiling fan
breathing shallow, whispering terminal words, a dying man.

I have whooped and cackled with recklessness in seizure fits
a buzzing current running down the spine zapping the wits

I have wept and joined the mournful fall of pattering rain
Felt the slip and tearing of grip on a thought once sane

Danced, ate ice cream, and swam mild waters blue
written, sang, dreamed, traveled, uttered false and true

I have paddled waters with azure ripples and bubbly froth
I have submerged in white cotton sheets of infantile sloth

I have tread stone paths with right angles and definite lines
I have loped along muddy paths askew yet true as God's signs.

I joined dressed guests at union ceremonies candles and lace
I have peered in wooden boxes holding the cold, pallid face

I have felt the tears spill as I the tune reach a height
I my smile reaches across the corners in an antrorse flight

Monday, July 25, 2011

Awake My Soul

I never know when the flint will strike or if it will catch ablaze to any height above my own musing.   But what of the flame?  Is it not the heart crying for a bright glimpse in the unfolding of beauty?  So many prayers poured out to see this tear in the drape of monotony and lukewarm affection for my existence and all that surrounds it.  I find my hands often folded in a reverence for that which I cannot touch.  I feel a lump directly under my throat which has no surgical repair.  It only asks for my silence with eyes of light.  I felt it, for the pronoun is my best , most staring in the deep of the ocean in the Orient.  A man faced with the abyss of his deeds, a chasm of his weak constitution with no bearing, a canyon seemingly too far to be bridged with attenuated hope.

If this world screams of beauty and a life continued in a better allegiance to the cosmic constant, I have ran with my ears plugged by my own fingers retreating back to the slough.  Awake man!  Go and find the path he spoke of and place your print alongside his bold boot.  Climb the mast, boy, and scream to the heavens you are clean.  Tread the peaks and write a sonnet full of worship.  Sleep in perse pastures of poesy and bathe in prime pools of promise.  Hug closer, cry harder with disregard, and laugh until death seems a happy friend that will only pass in a short sigh.  Show a stranger your bandaged heart in hopes that they might apply another adhesive to keep the overflowing of life intact.  Kiss your mother as the daughter of Mother Mary and be willing to hold the staff of your father.  Tell everyone you can barely breathe because it is so abundantly available in sweet doses.

So may I walk streets awake of You.  May I find a shadow of your appearance in a child's innocence.  Help me hear the cicada's song of adoration and feel the embrace of warm sun.  Still my tongue and quicken the good work you have faithfully started.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

An Ex-pat's Memorial Musing

With the amount of thumbs up(s) on my Facebook post, I thought it might be time to re-emerge with some broken strains floating in my mind.  Perhaps a weak writer is always looking for some support.  But all self-deprecation placed aside, I felt lost wandering the streets of the Far East with all of the news back home.  As I walked under blue skies, my thoughts were with a father picking up the rubble that once held doors he proudly locked to keep his family safe.  I wanted to light the cigarette for the poor soul that pulled a limp child from the splintered boards and broken cinder blocks.  I wanted to hold a stranger's hand as we prayed for healing or perhaps a sign much like the one shown to Noah.  I wanted to cherish my President's words feeling a relief from the weariness of bi-partisanship and strife that fills our news.

But as faces passed me on the street that were oblivious to my home's pain, I began feeling a sharp pull back to the Ozarks.  Rivers ran through my mind a little clearer, passing trees and neighbors' mailboxes from a car window promised a community better than I remembered, and my Emily's smile dripped sweeter.  My childhood friend, living in Joplin as the winds came unbridled, haunted the next corner as if he might be waiting with a hand to pull me back with him so I could share the horror that he has come to know as the last week or so.

So as I celebrate the memorial of fallen soldiers in foreign battlefields, the silent tears of a mother thinking back on her daughter playing in the safest daycare in Oklahoma City, the workers still employed at Ground Zero, the homes lost in the Big Easy, the bowed head to a grave marker, I also remember you: Home.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Olfaction of the Ozarks

As a teacher at a small school, I am expected to clean my room along with my teaching duties.  I actually crave this time as I slide my headphones on and think thoughts interrupted.  Today as I was using a dry-vac with a long extension, I smelled the motor running.  The smell was that of the gym floor at the old high school in my hometown.  My thoughts roamed the old halls with the trophy cases wrapped in dated hardwood and mopped floors.  I fondly remembered dressing in the locker room for basketball practice with my knobby shoulders awkwardly jutting out from my practice tank.  Old faces of friends and memories of laughter crowded around the idea that I truly missed the days of theater practice, lunches of a cheeseburger smothered in mayo and smashed cheetos inside the bun, and the overwhelming feeling that my youth would never  forsake me.  And above all, I remembered a corner of  the street where I rode my bike in Autumn with the leaves dancing above my head and getting caught in the spokes of my tires.

As I still assimilate myself to the smells of rice, kimchi, and empty soju bottles, I'm content to let my mind wander the brilliant smell of freshly clipped grass.  As I stand on the eighth floor of my building and look at the small mountains with Buddhist temples overlooking the hustle of my Korean city, I walk the paths of Garrison Spring and smell the smoke of cheap, blueberry cigars alongside the conversation of a dear friend.  I feel the low water running around my ankles as I gingerly walk across the brook over to my niece dressed in her pink bathing suit and sunglasses the size for a doll to feed her another handful of dissolving Skittles while the color of red and yellow sugar runs down my arm and swirls down the stream.  I smell the musk of my Grandfather Irving's plaid shirt tucked in his blue jeans and laundry out of the dryer with the sweetest blanket odor of fabric sheets that billowed out the back room attached to an old, white house in downtown Ozark.  

Thanks for letting me share my nose with you.  Cheers

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Classroom, Students, and Hangman

My day begins at 1 p.m. My first class is "Debate," a class for adults where we discuss various topics to practice English conversation.  My primary role is to keep the discussion going.  We usually have a handout with a topic and questions regarding the topic.  We are currently discussing "Money" with questions about bank accounts, gambling, debt, etc.  I have around four to six students.  One of my students, Danny, is leaving the class to return to university in Seoul.  He invited me to dinner with his family a couple of weeks ago, and we had a going away lunch yesterday at a fried chicken restaurant.  We have become friends, and he invited me to stay with him at his dorm on a weekend.  The remainder of my class are mothers who practice English for their own edification.  It has been very humbling to me to witness the Korean thirst for practicing a second language.  I have really been studying Korean a lot harder lately.  I can count, say thank you, bye, hello, ask how much for an item or service, and a lexicon of about fifteen words that are relevant my interests or needed for simple conversation.  I also am attending a Language Exchange program on Tuesday nights.  I met a Korean-American, SP (his name), who hosts the event for language practice, cultural exchange, and social networking.  His story is very interesting: he was adopted at the age of five by an American family in New Hampshire.  He grew up there and moved back to Korea after college.  He calls the Americans "mom and dad" and told me he has some contact with his biological parents.  He's a real nice guy, and we share many interests.
The rest of my day varies from Monday to Friday with 45 minute blocks.  I have a break between classes if there is no class scheduled.  I use this time to prepare for upcoming classes, read "Paradise Lost" to the mountains I can see from my window, or joke around with the director or kids not in class at the time.  They have learned to give me "high-fives" quite well with the boys trying to slap it as hard as possible and the girls giggling to their friends.  There are two other Korean teachers as well that teach the same classes.  They primarily focus on grammar while I work on comprehension, conversation, and vocabulary.  Lucy and Rina are the teachers' names.  They are both around my age but my conversation is limited with them because of the language gap and their shyness.  They laugh at me though when I dance on Fridays and make the boys do push-ups for bad behavior.
My kids are all sweethearts.  Talking to other foreign teachers (waegooks) has helped me realize how fortunate I am to have such great kiddos and a wonderful boss.  There are some horror stories out there.  I have one particular class of boys that I have a lot of fun with: Jin, Peter, Steven, and Frank (I call him Frankie baby with a mobster accent).  If we finish our lesson early, we talk about sports or they teach me Korean.  I have to be careful repeating what they say because they think it's hilarious to try to get me to say something bad or profane.  But they can never hold their giggles, so I usually have fair warning.  But they are just mischievous boys and give me fruit and candy weekly in an odd sort of penance.  The younger girls like to touch the hair on my arms because they are so hairy compared to their fathers, I suppose. They love my green eyes and blondish hair too.  I grade their diaries at the end of the night, and I learn about some of the girls' self-image problems and such.  I try to always compliment them when appropriate.  Koreans tend towards vanity to a point that even makes a Hollywood-inundated American blush at times.  But as a teacher, I try to help the girls be confident by giving them little nick names and always being friendly.  The shy ones are hard to joke around with, but they like it that I try as long as I don't embarrass them in front of their peers.
As aforementioned, at the end of the night I grade diaries and perform "phone teaching."  The diaries are often hilarious stories about their mothers scolding them, some delicious meal they had, or random thoughts that are priceless jewels of innocence.  I always leave a note about whatever they chose to write about and put a sticker in the box where I write.  One girl came to MJ, my boss, crying because Eric teacher (that's my name at school) didn't like her journal and didn't give her a sticker. The truth was that I simply forgot.  I felt so bad that I gave her an entire page of stickers.  So now she gives me a sticker at the end of class on my lesson plans and tells me good job.  I guess the page of stickers came with a supervisor status as well.
Phone teaching is another part of my day where I get paid to make prank calls for 20 minutes or so.  I don't literally prank anyone, but the hilarity is always present.  The kids think it is the coolest thing in the world that Eric teacher called them to chat about their favorite animal in the zoo or what they had for dinner.  I always end the session with a huge grin on my face and a story for the other teachers about one of the kid's answers or a parent yelling in the background that they should study harder if they don't know the answer.  The kids yell back in Korean what they wanted to say in English and a five minute argument ensues with me on the other line patiently waiting.  It can be quite entertaining.
We play games if we finish our lesson.  The games are always more practice but they absolutely adore them.  Hangman is the favorite, but we also play trivia basketball (if they get the answer right, they shoot a ball in the wastebasket), bingo, Simon Says, telephone, and "Stop the Bus" (a game where they write as many words as possible that begin with a letter I choose at the start of the game.  When I yell 'stop the bus' they all fall out of their chairs and giggle on the floor.  I know one of these days a kid is going to bust his lip or bruise her head, but I fear a revolt if I removed this part of the game).  I bought a bag of candy for the kids too.  They think Laffy Taffy is the greatest candy in the world because it's American.  My little niece taught me an important lesson in bribery with candy, so I use the motivation often while encouraging toothbrushes.


Monday, February 14, 2011

"Praise the God of all, drink the wine, and let the world be the world" French Proverb

I want to apologize for my Facebook post this morning.  I left an acerbic note about having to walk alone through the snow and cold on Valentine's Day.  I will be the first to admit my loneliness in the mornings.  But my God and Creator lovingly walked with me this morning.  He showed me the beauty of His snow.  He poignantly painted His picture for me of the goodwill of little children.  I have never been so blessed on a walk:
"I met in the street a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat worn, his cloak was out at the elbows, the water passed through his shoes -- and the stars through his soul." -Hugo  

I was not worthy, strong, or powerful as Saint Valentine, but I believe the same Light that shown in his (or their) heart(s) came to be shown in mine as I left my warm bed for the cold street.  I fear to write too much and steal from His grace that He so kindly bestowed upon His poor servant.  But I must thank Him publicly, no matter the feebleness.  I must try to love Him back, no matter the amount of failure.  Thank You for snow and a childlike spirit that plays in it.