HERE AND NOW
I'm Ascaird of Dinosaurs
Between my second and third retirements, I worked for a company that scored state assesment tests, 4th to 11th grade.
During my time with the company, I scored tests from easily 15 to 20 states. My speciality was reading and writing and, ocassionally, social studies. Some states did a good job with their tests; some states did awful. There are some Southern states that, if I had kids in school, I wouldn't live in.
I liked the state tests as counseling tools, a way to identify areas where students were not learning the things they needed to become a useful, functioning citizen and, identifying those needs, developing an individually-based curriculum to identify, then address the deficiencies.
It was, and still is, a misuse of the tests to use scores to grade schools and individual teachers, and especially not as an excuse to hold students back from advancing to their next grade. Our school systems continue to operate as if all their students are out working on the farm during the summer. Instead, summers should be used for good old fashioned summer school, three months to address the deficiences in individual students identified by the tests.
There were problems in all states, but a common one I saw in most states was that the people designing and writing the tests had been out of the classroom too long to understand the students they were writing the tests for. Too often I saw questions that I knew many if not most students would reference the world view of the students the test writers knew from 20 or 30 years before, questions that those long ago students would have know easily but that modern students taking the test would misread, misunderstand, and fail, providing a perfectly correct answer in modern context that would be not at all the answer required.;'
A particular question comes to mind, a reading question. Under instructions of the question, students were to write an essay based on material from the text.
What the test designer didn't understand was how much current children know about dinosaurs. I have a three year old neice that can name 15 or 20 dinosaurs, using their correct and proper names and even describing some characteristice of each one. The fourth graders taking this test probably know more about dinosaurs that the person writing the test and are proud to share their knowledge in their essay, forgetting all about referencing the text that was the basis of the text. Doing so, despite all their knowledge, they will fail the question.
A Texas issue, though I never scored Texas test, I did proof them, and, as I did that I saw very clear instance of trick question, questions clearly designed to trick students into a wrong answer. I never saw anything like that in any other state.
Scoring a hundred tests a day (especially when they are writing tests and every state teaches the same writing formula of three paragraphs, etc. etc.) can be very boring, like reading the same essay on the same one or two subjects a hundred times a day can be mind numbing. That's why running across a brilliant 8th grade writer, ignoring the rules and writing a piece worth publication anywhere can be invigorating. Also the essay with intentional or unintentional humor can send giggles and sometime loud outbursts of laughter across the room of a hundred readers all reading the same paper.
Such as this, a response to the dinosaur question by a 4th grade boy, not laugh-out-loud funny, but good for a tender smile and a chuckle. The little boy answers the question, ending his answer with, "I'm glad I didn't live when the dinosaurs were around cause...I'm ascaird of dinosaurs."
Another Practice Board
CONTINUING MY LIFE AS A NON-ECTOPLASMATIC
my quarterly brush
with mortality today
as I see my doctor for the regular
review of my quarterly labs
is pretty well set so I rarely
have to wait long
before she comes in with
and turns the rest of the session
over to her assistant, Igor,
who finds some reason or other
to give me a shot in the butt
and an appointment for the next
the fact is, I have pills for everything
so I remain relatively healthy
for a person in my
and the primary purpose
of the regular visit being to confirm
that the meds aren’t killing me
by destroying my liver and good humor
the fact is (again, another
unfortunate fact) I have a lot of dead friends
and a lot of friends presumed dead
through long absence, so, a quarterly stopover
at the doc’s office and a quarterly blood draw
is a welcome confirmation
of my continuing non-ectoplasmatic place in the world
of the not-so-quick but living
I feel better just thinking about it
River Views, Downtown
ANOTHER SUNDAY MORNING
falling toward the
slips behind a lacy morning cloud,
hiding the shadows of its
fly from their nightime nests,
cover the sky,
dark cape of the Phantom of the Morning
warm and wet,
blow smells of the southern sea
across the stark remains of northern winter
seeps from a pinched eastern horizon,
the sky not yet ready to open
to a new day
moon shadows fade
as sun shadows grow
toward the retreating night
cat does her mornng stretch -
doubles her length front to back,
legs reaching in both directions,
belly on the ground,
tail straight in the air,
little red anus like lantern light
at the end of a train
stirs in her bed,
too old for morning calisthenics -
eyelids lift up, then down,
enough for now
Catching pieces of news this morning, moved me to write this.
Beautiful green valley
Between stark, treeless mountains,
Mud homes that will wash away
In the first heavy rain
Climb the side of the mountain,
Row after row
A small, busy downtown,
Buildings mostly built of wood
Close to the ground, occasionally
Two or three floors, with wooden
Balconies looking out on the
Busy center of the city, traffic
Bustling with bicycles, donkeys,
Camels, One or two-passenger pedicabs,
Converted golf cart taxies, widely
Decorated, a hundred colors clashing
One tall building,
The Spirazan Hotel,
A place where foreigners
Could drink, a western style
Bar, with a band, a rock and roll
Band from the Philippines,
Elvis, Little Richard, Johnny Cash,
The same band I had heard
At the NCO club on my base
On the Pakistan frontier,
And even earlier, at the NCO club
At the NCO club at the base
Where I was stationed in Germany
in attendance, Russians,
Americans, Europeans, young
Arabs, a place outside their own country,
A place where they could drink
And party western style
Outside view of anyone else
The road from downtown,
paved, unlike most
That connect to it,
Merchants along the road,
Resting their camels, one
Selling hot nan, so tasty
When hot, like ceiling tile
Passing the zoo, animals
Mostly ragged, but
A beautiful young girl
Who dropped her veil for just
A second before her parents
Passing the Russian Embassy,
Entering the Embassy
To buy some maps, dangerous,
As low level American intelligence agents,
A violation of our secrecy rules,
And subject to arrest by the Russians
If they cared…
But, apparently they didn’t care enough
For an international incident
To the USAID house
Where we stayed, a crowd
Of young children passing,
Beautiful brown eyes
and eyes emerald green,
In their school uniform,
Singing as they marched past
From my room overlooking
A lower floor,
A grey cat slept, stretched
On the roof,
As cats stretch,
Sleeping in the warm
Before the horrors began
Starting a new board this afternoon. Should have it finished in a day or two. In the meantime, here's another practice board.
These pieces are by Lalla (born 1320 - died 1392), fourteenth century North Indian mystic who wandered through medieval Kashmir singing her songs. The verses are from the collection, Naked Song, published by Maypop Books in 1992, with translation by ColemanBarks.
When you eat too much,
you forget your truth,
and fasting makes you conceited,
so eat with some discipline,
and consciously. Be
an ordinary human being.
Then the door will open,
and you'll recognize the way.
Lalla, be moderate!
Everything is new now for me.
My mind is new, the moon, the sun.
The wholeworld looks rinsed with water,
washed in the rain of I am That.
Lalla leaps and dances iniside the energy
that creates and sustains the universe.
And speaking of Indian poets and mystics, I happened to read by chance today one of my friend and favorite Facebook poets. I used his work a lot on the old Here and Now and now here he is again in the new.
He is a free lance writer in New Delhi and his name is Bharat Shekar. He is also an artist and usually includes a drawing with his poetry. This time, he did not.
The poem was written in 2019.
REMEMBERED RADIANCE (Yearning to wander)
Not to dispel darkness,
but to be its companion and guide,
silver spreads silhouettes in moonbeams.
A darting owl scatters silence
with its feathery flight.
Then, every sound
only deepens the quiet-
a creak, a hoot,
the thud of a stone tumbling over grass,
startled 'twit-twit' of a lapwing,
in some forgotten distance
the gurgling mouth of a river making liquid love
to rocks in passing.
Heaving with sleeping breath of flowers,
the air turns moist
to drip dew drops
on leaves and blades of grass.
In ruins of abandoned houses,
almirahs buckle open
to free themselves
of shadow substances.
Across valleys, over hills,
immense, icy, intimate,
holding each others' shoulders
among the twinkle of stars.
I wrote a poem, Up at 4:30, harking back to a time fifty years past when, while at the university after military service, living in a small trailer on the Blanco River, I would stay up all night writing and talking to my dog before getting up to meet a 10 a.m. chemistry, biology, or physics class (three classes I managed to graduate without ever passing.)
I admit now, that fifty years later, my pleasure in watching the sun come up has lessened a lot.
This might be a sunset campanion to that piece, though written more recently.
Night lays in
with a sigh
like an old woman
pulling bed coverrs
up to her chin
like feather dusters
brushing the stars,
frogs come alive in the creek,
on my patio,
I strip down, lay back in my chair
and join the frog-symphony,
imagine the fresh, cool mud
between a catalogue of reeds
on the rain freshened creek-side,
imagine the blood-tasty mosquito
caught on my long green tongue,
settle, squish, into the singing night
Muffin-making and other activities of the long night
As the end of night begins
the moon at midnight
is full and bright,
slipping through the trees
like a slow and lonely dancer
drifting as the end of night begins
toward the west
and away from the other side of the sky,
the edge of the world over which
its bigger, brighter sister will soon rise
to claim a new day
high in the cold, cold sky,
near where the domain of all earth creatures end,
icy scudding clouds provide a chill backdrop
to the pale sister's passage
the siblings, never together,
can only nod in passing
A lot of Texas poets, both pros and amateurs, get lost in the diversity of the state. It's not hard to do. If you spend any time driving around through the varied cultures and vistas of the state, as I have done, it's hard not to want to put it all down on paper.
The many stories and myths of the state are also a draw on any writer's imagination. Elane Carlisle Murry is one such writer, as in this piece from her book, The Law of Tough Mesquite, growing from the myths of the traveling cowboy, the loner who sees it all. Winnerof the W.E. Bard Book Award, the book was published by Eakin Press in 1993.
The Fence Line
At the top of the rise
the rider drew rein
and saw stretched before him
a brush-studded plain.
The soft desert wind
blew the cedar's fresh smell
as his horse stepped with care,
down the steep rocky trail.
At the foot of the hill,
she shifted his weight
and the hoofs of his horse
built a fast steady gait
Behind him the dust rose.
He pounded a track
till his eyes saw a fence line,
narrow and black.
At the sight of the dark strand
he changed his straight course
and veered toward the open
and challenged his horse.
Away into nowhere,
away in a streak,
sweat staining his shoulders
dust streaking his cheek.
her lip trembles
her lip trembles
and I love her for her courage
her day begins
in yellow light,
like lantern light, before
the sun, like an old woman rising
from her dark bed,
crests the eastern mountain ridges...
the basin will be dark
before the sun falls
through the western notch,
the desert floor,
a blaze of reds and yellow and orange...
she stands before the colors far below,
arms stretched wide,
embracing the failing light...
this is the way she wants it to end,
in a glory afire with
not soft and unsure, the way it began