Thoughts Accompanying My Teacher


Surprise me, lift me off to somewhere new
send me on a roundabout way
make it a uncommon journey
one that I might not have taken
if not for you.
Too far out of my perimeter,
and I might not go with you —
Don’t make it too familiar either.

Use your own words, the idiosyncratic ones
the ones that tumble in your head
when you speak them in the wrong crowd –
we all wince.

Don’t tell me too much.

Every once in a while smuggle in an organizing notion
a re-visioning
sneak it past the guardians of equanimity
the first line of defense
then ease past the conversationalists
the ones who speak loftier than I do.

You speak right around them.

My other teachers, the owl-eyed Dr. Reines
in his work shirt and heavy boots and the others
sit in faculty Senate. Dr. Lehman who speaks slowly but draws on four,
five civilizations he quotes from memory, Dr. Petachowski
hitching up his pants, Dr. Fish
roaming through the texts of a dozen libraries on three continents, Dr. Marcus
in the front row with his hands cupped behind his ears, Dr. Rivkin
kissing us after class and
you wiggling your fingers and instructing me to begin over —
you are all inside me and a tough gang to penetrate.

Be thoughtful and push your ideas the best you can
through them won’t you?
[you are merciless on language].

Be a thinker, a word maven
sweet singer of the unconventional soul —
you may be standing with Dr. Mihaly
he will be chewing on his pipe in the circle of review
saying this, something
I might have put in his mouth
or he actually said it:
I need meaning
It completes me.

And please
I’m speaking to you now Bonia
Yours a place of special honor
you saw me when I came looking —
for what?

You would be waiting
sucking air through your teeth
combing your hair and fiddling with your guitar
come and learn with me, you are saying –

you will be my student
I will be your teacher

jsg, usa

Four Years Oh Roger

Bless Roger

Roger K. died 1:37 AM
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Oh Roger
this morning I heard on the radio that you died
you died

pursuing thieves
who took five dollars in tips
from the coffee shop
where you came for your daily caffeine.

Oh Roger, your affected normalcy
that could not conceal your
glamorous individuality.

The picture in words you drew
walking your dog
wearing a bathrobe
and a cigarette hanging out your mouth,

when your dog would run away
to the Ritz
the call from the hotel attendant —
Mr. K
please come and get your dog
and your car,

that was funny but before your
when you changed your life
from the inside out
earning it.

The last time I saw you
you described your Higher Power
like angels
who sat on either shoulder
your brother and your mother
they are preparing for you now
guiding your way.

Roger, be a guide for us
for your family
be an angel for your loved ones
as your loved ones were angels for you
maybe you can send a sign
try something large

or send another sort of sign
something specifically Roger
send it over the divide
we’ll know it when we see it
we’ll recognize your sense of style.

Roger, this is your friend
who joined you on your journey for a brief time in this life
mourning now your early passing
in the way life
or God
or nature
or whatever it is we believe in
writes our story.

Your goodness extends over the divide
more than memory
though memory will be a blessing –

we who survive you carry the lessons of your life
in our lives,

we will have to live somewhat for you
and for all the heroic co-travelers
on our way —
whose lives we know from the inside out.

And when you die
we die some too,

and when we live
you live some too.


jsg, usa