Saturday, April 30, 2016

we must risk delight

another poem on last day of poetry month 2016. . . . I've posted two fierce poems today.
A Brief for the Defense. by Jack Gilbert

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

poetry is what he thought but could not say

I've posted this fiercely beautiful, and moving, poem before.  I love to reread this one.Today is last day of poetry month 2016.


What He Thought by Heather McHugh, American  poet

We were supposed to do a job in Italy and full of our feeling for ourselves
(our sense of being Poets from America) we went from Rome to Fano, met the Mayor,
mulled a couple matters over. (what’s cheap date, they asked us: what’s flat drink)
Among Italian literati we could recognize our counterparts: the academic,the apologist, the arrogant,
the amorous, the brazen and the glib.
And there was one administrator (The Conservative),in suit of regulation gray,
who like a good tour guide with measured pace and uninflected tone
narrated sights and histories the hired van hauled us past.
Of all he was most politic — and least poetic — so it seemed.
Our last few days in Rome I found a book of poems this unprepossessing one had written:
it was there in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by the German visitor
(was there a bus of them?) to whom he had inscribed and dated it a month before.
I couldn’t read Italian either, so I put the book back in the wardrobe’s dark.
We last Americans were due to leave tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant, and there we sat and chatted, sat and chewed, till sensible it was our last big chance to be Poetic, make our mark, one of us asked “What’s poetry?
Is it the fruits and vegetables and marketplace at Campo dei Fiori or the statue there?”
Because I was the glib one, I identified the answer instantly, I didn’t have to think —
“The truth is both, it’s both!” I blurted out. But that was easy. That was easiest to say.
What followed taught me something about difficulty, for our underestimated host spoke out all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:
The statue represents Giordano Bruno, Brought to be burned in the public square
because of his offence against authority, which was to say the Church.
His crime was his belief the universe does not revolve around the human being:
God is no fixed point or central government but rather is poured in waves, through all things: All things move. “If God is not the soul itself he is the soul of the soul of the world.”
Such was his heresy. The day they brought him forth to die they feared he might incite the crowd
(the manwas famous for his eloquence).
And so his captors placed upon his face an iron mask in which he could not speak.
That is how they burned him.
That is how he died, without a word,in front of everyone.
And poetry —

(we’d all put down our forks by now, to listen to the man in gray; he went on softly)

poetry is what he thought, but did not say.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Woman Speaks by Audre Lorde

I've been neglecting poetry month, which is April. I have a couple days left!
A Woman Speaks
By Audre Lorde
Moon marked and touched by sun
my magic is unwritten
but when the sea turns back
it will leave my shape behind.
I seek no favor
untouched by blood
unrelenting as the curse of love
permanent as my errors
or my pride
I do not mix
love with pity
nor hate with scorn
and if you would know me
look into the entrails of Uranus
where the restless oceans pound.

I do not dwell
within my birth nor my divinities
who am ageless and half-grown
and still seeking
my sisters
witches in Dahomey
wear me inside their coiled cloths
as our mother did
I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon's new fury
with all your wide futures
I am
and not white.
Audre Lorde, “A Woman Speaks” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

modeling self acceptance to toddlers with nudity

--> ©
Cheryl left her home when she was fifteen.   Her father had long since disappeared and her one older, half-brother was also long gone. She knew he lived in Maine but had no way to contact him. She kept track of her mother  after leaving home but, for the most part, they did not have a relationship again until her mother was at the end stages of dying of cancer. Then Cheryl took her in for the last months of her life. And she did so grudgingly.   ©
Cheryl is unusually tall, about six feet two inches,  very thin, with a crooked nose that turned left then, somehow, right, she still managed to appear appealing, if not quite beautiful. She had never cut her hair so it was quite long, below her hips. It was also very thin and it billowed behind her as she moved through the world, a cloud of a goddess gliding along. Then, and now that she is in her fifties, she appeared to float along the ground rather than walk, her hair down to her hip billowing around her as she walked. One had a sense that she floated a few inches off the crowd. That she glided, and did not walk as mere mortals do. She had and still has an ephemeral air. She is a finely wrought energy.

It was no surprise to anyone who knew her, or anyone holding stereotypes about hippies in the early seventies, that Cheryl landed in a hippie commune just outside of Baltimore, the city she had grown up in. It was a commune that consisted mostly of therapists and wannabe Waldorf teachers but they were all hippies.©

There were several homes rented by the group, all chosen for their proximity to one another.©

Just as Cheryl joined this group, the young adults with children decided to open a Waldorf School.

Now that I have sent my daughter to a Waldorf School, sat on the board of a Waldorf school for many years and even completed a Masters in Anthroposophical Community Development, I know that everyone who teaches in a Waldorf School is supposed to be grounded both in Waldorf pedagogy and Anthroposophy. Back in the seventies, there were two fledging Waldorf teacher training programs in this country, one on each coast. There was no training in Baltimore. And the "Waldorf" school Cheryl's hippie commune decided to start had no Waldorf trained teachers, although everyone working in the school did their best to apply Waldorf principles.©

Waldorf is more than art combined with hippie values. Waldorf education, beginning in preschool, is built upon solid pedagogical theory. A Waldorf teacher approaches every child with reverence and every lesson offered to children with even more reverence.

I am skeptical about the foundations of the Baltimore Waldorf school, in the Cheryl years,  based on Cheryl's early hippie escape from normal life. When that school opened, it hired by-then-seventeen year old Cheryl, along with a teenage boy, to run the preschool. Cheryl had been living with and hanging out with many young adults who, apparently, tended to forget she was a minor, and, for all her seeming maturity, was still a child. Heck, she was probably having statutory rape sex with some of the guys in the © commune. 

The preschool was really a day care program for the children of all the hippies, regardless of their roles in the school. The preschool would accept children whose parents did not work at the school but few parents from outside the school community chose a preschool run by high school drop-out teens. Imagine having two high school drop outs, both 17, running a "preschool". Babysitting, sure, they were qualified to babysit. They were qualified to keep the children alive, feed them lunch and snacks and take them on outings to the park, two by two. To bill that preschool as a Waldorf preschool with  Waldorf preschool teachers was a big stretch.Having said that, I acknowledge that Cheryl told me all the 'teachers' in the school had ongoing training.  Every summer, most Waldorf teachers, with or without Waldorf teacher training, take continuing education programs to prepare them for the coming school year. If a teacher's class was heading into the third grade, the teacher usually spends part of his summer at a class about Waldorf pedagogy for the third grade. Etc. ©

Years later, after Cheryl and I had parted ways as business partners or friends, I got to know the administrator of the Baltimore Waldorf School, which was the same embryonic Waldorf School that gave seventeen year old Cheryl her first job. I met that administrator in my Waldorf School Administrator program at Sunbridge College, in suburban New York City. He was professional, well grounded both in Waldorf pedagogy and Anthroposophy. He assured me that all of the teachers at his school finally had Waldorf teacher training or were regular certified and licensed teachers who, during the summers, received Waldorf pedagogy training one grade at a time. And he assured me that he remembered Cheryl, for he had held off enrolling his children in her preschool group, waiting to enroll his kids in kindergarden with a real, adult teacher. ©

Cheryl and I became business partners in the mid-eighties. We offer five-day intensives that we invented as we went along. Encounter groups, I guess. Metaphysics. We relied a lot on A Course in Miracles. We offered all our training for self-determined fees which turned out to be great marketing. Folks would sign up thinking they'd get a free five-day training in metaphysics but they did not count on the workshops being so great that they would end up paying us, often and of course not always, a lot of money.  Cheryl and I found that the more equanimous we were about how much money we were paid, the more money we got. We learned to be totally accepting when someone paid nothing. Invariably, if someone paid nothing, someone else wrote us a check for two grand. And this was in the eighties.
When she and I were still partners, for I don't know what she does these days, we used the fellowship hall of a Unity church. The pastor charged us a percentage of whatever money we received so it was affordable. And the pastor was a great guy who became our friend.©

Cheryl traveled from Baltimore to Minneapolis every other month, doing her intensive in Baltimore in the in-between months with me traveling to Baltimore every other month.  We fell into the habit of always having lunch with Reverend Phil the day before our next intensive in Minneapolis. 

Phil loved our lunches. He said his parishioners didn't tend to see him as a friend, but as a religious counselor and teacher, so they did not hang out with him over lunch. Since his entire life revolved around the church, he did not have, he told us, a lot of social friends. He had a wife and they were happy. And of course they had friends.  I guess he just liked being treated to lunch by us, for he was always very happy about those lunches.

We always went to ethnic restaurants for those lunches. Ethiopian, Burmese, Afghani. The Afghan one was my personal favorite, it was close to Phil's church and we had fallen into the habit of going there. Phil got bored with Afghani food one day and asked if we could go to a deli for sandwiches. of course we agreed.
That deli lunch stands out for me because of the stories shared over those sandwiches.

Phil began our lunch conversation by recounting his and his wife's recent dinner party. They had invited six couples over for dinner. The invitation had said "Please bring the story of your most embarrassing moment to share."  Phil and his wife had thought their invitation was a clear signal to have fun but most of the invited guests had declined to accept the invite. Only two couples accepted and attended that dinner. Phil laughed hard, and so did Cheryl and I, as he speculated on people's possible reactions to their dinner invitation. What the heck did those people think Phil and his wife expected people to share? He told us he and his wife had thought people would bring funny stories and that their invitation would get the party off on a fun note.

After cuing up the somewhat failed dinner party invitation, Phil shared with us his most embarrassing moment that he had shared with his smaller-than-anticipated dinner party. I don't remember Phil's story.

Then Cheryl asked if she could tell us about her most embarrassing moment. Of course Phil and I wanted to hear it.

When she was seventeen, working at her first paid job as a Waldorf preschool teacher, Cheryl and her teenage boy preschool co-teacher had decided the children, toddlers ages two, three and maybe four, needed lessons in accepting their bodies.

As a sidebar, I have to say that I have never met a toddler who needed this lesson. I also have to point out that I am sure Cheryl and her co-preschool co-teacher did not consult any of the actual teachers, or actual adults, at that school with their plan.  Although some teachers might have agreed with the idea that teaching very little children to accept their bodies was a good lesson, I am very sure no actual adult and teacher would have approved Cheryl's lesson plan for the day in question.

Cheryl and her male preschool co-teacher decided to spend the day in the nude and to inite the children to go nude that day. They did not insist that the children go nude. No child chose to be nude that day and this reinforced for Cheryl her conviction that the children needed work on accepting their bodies.

Again, I have to share a bit of my experience with toddlers. Many, but probably not all, toddlers will happily remove their clothing to run nude under a water sprinkler on a hot day. Many toddlers might remove their clothes impulsively and forget they are naked. Few toddlers, I believe, when  invited by persons they perceive as adult authority figures, ever accept such an invitation and then strip to nakedness in a group.

I totally get why the kids declined to go nude when Cheryl suggested it as an option. If she and her co-teacher had instructed the children to take off their clothes, they probably would have obeyed. The child would have been confused but obedient. Thank goddess it was an open-ended suggestion that the children all felt free to decline.

So there was nude Cheryl and her nude male co-teacher, spending the day in the school's garden, outdoors, with about ten fully clothed toddlers, with Cheryl and her co-worker hoping that at some point the children would grok something about nudity and strip of their own accord.

All Waldorf schools schedule regular marketing tours,especially back in the early seventies. Enrolling students so the school could pay its bills was a constant challenge. These tours tend to happen at the same time each month, like the second Tuesday of each month from 10 a.m. until noon. Adult teachers would factor the tour into their day's lessons plans, striving to be doing something appealing when the prospective parents of paying students came to observe the school to good advantage.

On the day Cheryl decided to teacher her toddlers her idea of how to be comfortable in one's own body, the day she and her male co-worker spent nude with a group of children not their own, the marketing tour group came out into the garden.

Cheryl, bless her seventeen year old naivete, forgot she was nude and warmly greeted the tour guide, a friend of hers, and then began introducing herself to the prospective parents who were checking out the school with an eye to enrolling their children. Tours meant tuition. Cheryl noticed that the tour guide and those on the tour were acting strangely. They did not look at Cheryl directly. They acted uncomfortable. It took naive seventeen year old Cheryl a minute or two to even register that she was getting strange reactions. I think she had to actually have her nudity pointed out by the tour guide, also a school employee and, very likely, Cheryl's friend.

At that point, the tour group hustled back indoors and Cheryl felt the most embarrassed she ever had.

This is the story Cheryl told us in that deli with Reverend Phil. I wanted to ask her how the rest of the school's faculty had reacted to Cheryl's choice to have two nude adults spend the day with other people/s children without their parents knowledge or consent but the moment to ask never seemed to arrive.  I wanted to hear that those two dopey teenagers were supervised more closely after that day spent in the nude with the children. Lunch, after all, is only an hour.  As soon as Cheryl had told us her story, we paid the check and moved on with our day.