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Archive for July, 2013

Love Letters by Lisa Tate

I wrote seven love letters,

One for every day of the week

Haphazardly written to express

The childish mess weighing down my mind.

Each one addressed my insatiable desire

To lay you down on my floor

And adore your body with my tongue,

You’re the one who would never let me touch you.

It was too perplexing, too confusing,

So complex that I’m surprised

You never had me sign a consent form

For simply warming my hands on your skin.

You won’t let me in, acting as if

My begging and pleading don’t bruise your grin,

As if it’s a sin for me to want to kiss

The dimple on your chin.

But I can’t begin to even reach in your direction,

To breach that imaginary barrier

Between my lips and your expression,

This is as close to a confession

That I’ll give you.

 

I’m living in what I hope to be fiction,

You are just one more addiction

That I can add to my list of bad habits

And unnecessary afflictions.

It’s as if my heart’s depiction of you

Has my organs dancing ballroom,

My veins come dressed in costume

But nothing can hide that they keep me alive

So that I can breathe next to you.

We’re overdue, and I wish I could glue

Your body to mine, intertwined

But you shake me off, the San Andres fault line

Could never compare to the force of you pushing me away.

But I’ll stay.

I’ll stay even if it means my heart succumbing to decay

Because I’m simply a display

With my story framed between headlines on page twenty-eight.

I can’t help who I love,

And you can’t help you are afraid.

 

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EVERYONE IS BORN STUPID.

The words are in all caps written in red mark so that every person cramped into the trailer turned pseudo-classroom can read every word and copy it down exactly. All notes are written on the board this way. Mr. Draper, the 1st period history teacher, is adamant that every word will be readable and there can be no excuse for not taking notes in his class. Before you’re counted for attendance you have to show him a pencil and paper, denoting you’re going to pay attention and you’re properly equipped for class.

Everyone’s pencil slows to a halt. Such a short sentence in a class where there is normally line upon line to copy down. Mr. Draper stares out at the room silently, arms crossed, white hair slicked and unmoving upon his head while his nose hair catches a breeze below a hooked nose. I often pictured him as an old protestant from the days of the American Revolution preaching the religious tolerance and freedom that he always blatantly described. He was the authority on history since, after all, he had been there.

Right now I waited in earnest for him to deliver his rant, since surely there had to be one. I had seen him get fired up about how Lincoln’s heart belonged to winning the war and the only way to do that was to give the slaves freedom in exchange for their lives on the battlefield.

“Hunky-dory!” he’d exclaimed tossing his dry erase marker across the room. “Let’s give them freedom to die on the battlefield, then when the war is done, we forgive the south and everything goes back to normal.”

PARADOX was the word of the day, chosen from the ‘Top Ten Words Used Most When Describing American History’ list that hung on the wall.

So I waited for the ranting and raving of my history teacher. When everyone else began to stare at him too I realized everyone either had a look of confusion or the blank stare that indicated they checked out.

“Everyone is born stupid,” Mr. Draper said slowly letting the words sink in. “When we’re born we cannot function. We don’t even have the ability to feed ourselves. We all start off on the same level and experience teaches us what we will become.”

A pause as the class tries to formulate where this lecture is going.  My mind wanders to the men who were born rich who never had want for anything. Then I think of the men who were born slaves and knew only to submit to their master because that is what they’re raised to do.

“America begins at home. When you all grow up and you have children you’re going to teach them the things that you learned and they’re going to compare that to what they experience and THEN and only THEN do they develop their opinions. Opinions are not facts. They do not always dictate what is absolutely true. The facts are events and times,” he taps the timeline that hangs over the white board fervently. “But what they mean to people, well that depends on who they are.” He smiles his ‘Ah, now you get my point’ smile.

I don’t get his point though, not clearly enough, because I’m asking questions. This was not a telling of historic events or even a preamble to something out of the book he was about to lead into. There was something missing in his lesson plan.

He was now writing on the blank side of the board, this time in blue marker, all in caps, always clear.

America begins at home, with every child’s need

For guidance and direction in establishing a creed.

The roots that shape America are formed most surely where

A child spends the vital years within his parent’s care.

Perhaps the close-knit family where each one has a task

Does more to aid America than anyone could ask.

Responsibilities at home build roots both firm and strong,

To guide our future leaders in whatever comes along.

To work and strive is no disgrace, instead it is a joy

To build a great America that cannot be destroyed.

This beautiful America, So blessed with liberty,

Begins at home, its true success depends on you and me.

Poetry was not something that ended up on the board in this class. We’d been forced to memorize the Declaration of Independence and Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, but never something as polite and delicate as poetry. I could never imagine the army vet Mr. Draper reading poetry at any point so when he began reciting the lines they sounded like drills he was planting in our brains.

“America begins at home,” He states again at the very end. “Every day you walk into this room you carry with you the ability to change the course of history. But, babies do not have this ability because babies are born stupid. You have to LEARN in order to make decisions and you have to MAKE DECISIONS to change something. So, how is it that with all the knowledge we have available to us and with all the knowledge we gain from experience we still make stupid decisions? Hm? … Hm? How do we, with all the mistakes we made as a country, still go on to do things that didn’t work?”

The pause was longer than usual. Most of the questions in this class were rhetorical. We were expected to sit in silence and be told the answers, but now we were expected to respond. A few students blinked back into the present and realized they had been asked a question that they did not have an answer to.

A girl with cropped black hair and several shining pieces of jewelry in her ear raised her hand. Shannon was her name. I had seen her around always wearing a black t-shirt, cargo pants and skate shoes. She was, at the moment anyway, dating a girl named Amy.

“It’s our parent’s fault?” she answers/asks.

“Aha! Yea, ok, I’ll buy that.” There’s excitement. “Why?”

“Because they taught us how we should act and their parents taught them, so we’re following tradition.”

“NO!” He slams his marker on a desk and it’s like a firecracker in the room. The remaining daydreaming students jump in their seats. “I don’t see a single person in this classroom following tradition! You don’t dress or act like your mother or father did and neither does he or this boy. Society changes every day, why not change something important?”

“Because we can’t,” she iterates changing tactics and tone. “Only the government can change things that are important.”

I can tell she’s just scrambling to find a good answer now. I raise my hand. Mr. Draper’s eyes fall on me and suddenly I’m the focus of the class. I cross my ankles and tuck the high-water jean-clad legs under my chair.

“Yes?” Draper’s eyes find mine and I see some hope.

“Because we don’t want to.” The words rush out on a single breath.

“Explain.”

“If something doesn’t hurt us or inconvenience us then we wont change it.”

He smiles. It’s very creepy and hysteric, and I’m afraid another explosion is about to go off. It never does. Instead he nods like a bobble head and walks up to the board again, red marker at the ready. I watch his age spotted hand slide across the board.

He underlines the final lines: This beautiful America, so blessed with liberty, begins at home, its true success depends on you and me.

He turns to look at every one of us now unanimously confused by his teaching on this day. It sinks in slowly with all of us that something is very different when he walks up to the TV mounted in the right ceiling corner. Mr. Draper was a dinosaur, he’d given a speech on the first day of school that he was being paid to teach and not to show movies with others teaching for him.

“Lazy. Boring. Hogwash.” He’d said.

But now he was turning on the TV and messing with the buttons to turn to a channel showing an action movie where a building in New York was under attack. No, that wasn’t a movie that was the news – our news. New York was under attack.

We all watched with various degrees of horror. One girl started crying, some students began to plead to go to the office. I sat in awe when I realized something important.

Mr. Draper hadn’t taken roll. Class had not even begun.

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10 Haikus -William Ellers

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Beautiful Japan.
Tragedy struck you today.
I pray for the dead.

Sweet sister Japan
The heart aches for you, eyes weeping
We feel your sadness.

Reactors shut down
Japan plunged into darkness
Refineries burn.

Earthquake strikes Japan
Tsunami devestates land
Japan will survive.

No warning, Japan.
Tsunami rushes in.
Houses gone, fields flooded.

Ground shakes, buildings sway
Engineer designs are good
Few buildings are lost.

Recover, rebuild
Japan’s resiliance prevails
The world is ready to help.

Japan’s candle dimmed
Quake and tsunami destroy
Japan’s light still shines

Relief efforts come
The world unites in Japan’s pain
We are all human.

Japan, warm embrace
10 haiku, a gift for you
Not a wealthy man.

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It’s no doubt that Christianity has had a firm hold on the hearts and minds of the American people. With almost 80% of the population identifying themselves as Christian (http://www.pewforum.org/Christian/Global-Christianity-exec.aspx), and a church on every street corner, Christianity has held sway on almost every aspect of American culture. Our lawmakers murmur a prayer before they eat. We place our hands on a bible as we swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth in our courthouses. Even the word “God” is mentioned on the dollar bill, as if to remind us every time we make a purchase, it’s all for the great glory of Yahweh himself. And yes, while one of the greatest things about this country is religious freedom, it’s as if the notion of separation of church and state is completely ignored. Perhaps their ears are simply clogged with holy water.

“But this country was founded on Christianity,” some might argue. “The founding fathers were Christian, and they shaped this country into what it is.” While no one can argue that the founding fathers should be heralded for creating the very infrastructure of this nation, some would be remiss in assuming the bible had any hand in that. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, two of the most iconic American figures, were in fact, deists (http://www.gilderlehrman.org/history-by-era/age-jefferson-and-madisonreligion/essays/thomas-jefferson-and-deism). Deism arose from the Enlightenment movement, they believed in a “supreme architect”; a being that merely set the world in motion. Jefferson and Franklin relied more on reason and observation of the natural world. They believed that through understanding the natural laws of this world, mankind overall would be improved. So no, not all of the founding fathers were Christian, nor did they have any desire to impress Christian (or any religious) ideals through their laws.

“But Christianity teaches morals and good values,” others might argue. “The word of God keeps us true, and those who do not listen are punished.” Sure, that makes sense. If you’re talking to a Christian. And while there are many rational, good-natured church goers out there, there are many vile, hate spewing mongrels to replace them. We don’t need to talk about the Westboro Baptist Church; everyone but Westboro Baptists understand just how hateful and disgusting they are. But even the less hateful of these people are completely willing to stand up for their God when their values are being attacked. Marriage equality has been a hot button issue in this country for years, with heavy resistance from congressman and civilians alike. Because treating an entire demographic of people as second class citizens is a good moral to bestow on our youth.

But these arguments have already been made by many people for many different reasons to the point of anti-Christian overload. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not an anti-Christian. I’m just anti-people in a seat of office making decisions for the American population because they believe in a talking snake. More and more I hear about a politician who is trying to ban evolution from schools, or teaching creationism in our science classes. Mitt Romney, presidential nominee in 2012, sought an amendment to define marriage between a man and a women. Todd Akin made a public statement about “legitimate rape” in an attempt to overthrow abortion. Rick Santorum even compared homosexuality to bestiality. And while yes, these people came and went and were generally dismissed by the public, the fact of the matter is, people voted for them.

Again, I have no problem with Christianity. But everyone seems to forget the opening line of the first Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . “ For politicians, not very many of them seem to read the Constitution.

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