Entering Grades

After I sort the blue books

collate the scantrons

do the multiplication, the addition, the recording

when I finally reach the entering I feel as though

the work at hand is incantational.

This cruel alchemy

turns agency and anxiety

into a bell curve of tally-marks

scrawled letters,

and screen-dotting numbers.

If there is a turning-to-gold

it is found in the repetition of their names

HannahKristenEvanHopePeterLukeEricaJuliaSarahMatthewColleenEmilyTylerMichaelTrianaEstherBethanyAnnieJacobZacharyKelsey

And I wish each well

as I archive, sometimes with cringing disappointment,

their grades.

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Today’s “World-Views”

Welcome to the H. I’m inhabiting today:

A shallow bowl of black plastic filled with applesauce-flecked yogurt. It’s disappearing fast.

Sidewalks baked in a snow-oven overnight, the top layer crusty and being tossed aside in pieces as I shovel.

Silty, clouded coffee in a fat, honeypot-esque mug. Wishing there were more.

A redhead in Western Civ. is wearing pink and I think it looks nice.

Droning four-foot principle stop playing mentally as I watch paper-tongues emerge from the printer… “Great is thy faithfulness; 2/3, 3, 3, quick substitute to 5; right toe – left toe -right toe, heel…”

Dignified Prof. R., clad in jeans and his rather old coat, running beneath the bridge. Urgently, without mittens or hat despite the bitter cold.

Dutch colors through the classroom door kitty-corner to my seat in the reading room – someone has a backpack with blaze orange and navy blue and it’s sprawled on the floor. (Do people look deflated like that, when they faint and/or fall over?)

Slate-like snow patterns forming the roof of Chamberlin as I look up, Dickinsonian winter slant-light pressing through the covered skylights.

And Prof. S. has recently styled her hair. It is very orange. Copper orange. Like those old colonialish wigs, but one made of pennies.

Scrawls in grey pencil and black pen all over the flimsy and rough-edged paper of the Logic homework I’m grading, illegible like the Arabic I saw in Systematic Theology today but not beautiful like that Arabic.

Prof. Y. and his wife shuffled along the snowy walks clinging to one another this morning. They looked like a pair of birds, especially she in her bright red coat. As our rooster Finzi would accompany a hen to the compost pile, hopping gingerly through the snow.

There is a checkered pattern on the reading room glass. What archetypal patterns are checkering my world? Hegel’s triads? Kant’s logical structures? What else is there, overlooked?

Medieval Order and the Palpable Obscure

Hello all. I might as well begin addressing you, my dear readers, since the category now has referents.

Today we have a reflection on this morning’s Western Civ section. We’ve been talking in Western Civ about the dissolution of Medieval culture in Western Europe, and what I’ve been most struck by is the trajectory of order to chaos – we go from Jesus with a protractor, laying out the world, to Jesus torn and bloody as a third of the population dies. (Forgive my historical simplifications, please.)

This is particularly striking to me, since, well, I love the Medieval mind. Even more than this, I love the idea of an ordered world – a lucid world, the philosopher’s dream. And as order slips away from the Medievals, I’m mourning along with them. I’m sympathizing because my own world – happy and healthy and materially-ordered though it may be – has developed a rash, as it were. Everywhere I turn I’m finding more spots to the world; I can’t keep track of them; they create nuances and loopholes and they mar what I’d hoped would be a neatly beautiful image.

This confusion became doubly poignant for me when we briefly spoke about William of Occam and nominalism. If you can’t see the big picture, if the ordered world isn’t within your grasp – you just point to objects, like a child. What presents itself in front of your face is what you get; there’s no extending beyond and piecing together. (Okay, okay, I may be slightly exaggerating.) And despite all my dreams about being able to get at the essence of a thing, idea, or situation and really “name it well”, the world of “the way things really are” is not my world. I’m within existence, per Kierkegaard, and I don’t see the relationships and I don’t see the essential characteristics and I definitely don’t see the forms. But I’ve got to bumble my way through the messy world nonetheless, keep away from the sticky walls when possible as I burrow on through the tunnel. And for whatever reason (custom? God-given desire or task? love particular to me? sheer oddity?) I keep on giving names, making labels, even though they’re not sufficient. Even though I change them. Even though they fall off after a few minutes.

So then I wrote a poem about it in my Western Civ. notebook.

Back to addressing the audience: I’m not sure how you all feel about the inclusion of poetry here, but for some reason the impersonality of this blog and the fact that you can just stop reading at any time if you’re bored means that I don’t really mind putting in the occasional poem here or there. Maybe that’s annoying. I doubt that they’re really terrible; I also doubt that they’re of much interest to anyone who isn’t thinking about what I was thinking about when I wrote them. But they’ll probably keep appearing nonetheless.

My poem is a simple haiku (yes, that’s redundant). I’m on a haiku/cinquain kick lately; I think the restrictions force me to produce somewhat better work. (It’s Miltonic in origin, please note. I’m reading Paradise Lost and the poem draws its central image from the section in which Satan leaves Hell and passes through chaos on his way to Paradise. Milton actually uses the phrase “palpable obscure” at one point, which I loved – that’s exactly what’s so maddening about obscure things, I think – they’re palpable!, you can just get in touch (ha) enough with them to have a vague sense of what they are – but they’re “merely” palpable, reason in its visual domain can’t get at them. Thus: obscure. We’re blind, living feelingly instead. (Imagine if Plato’s prisoner had felt the sun! What then?! Imagine the implications for the trajectory of Western philosophical history!))

So have a poem. Then have a Rembrandt sketch.

Will I be able

in the palpable obscure

to christen chaos?

Day 9 (30dpc)

(Quickly jot down four verbs, four adjectives, and four nouns. Write a poem utilizing all 12 words. My words: Stifle, remove, find, seek; open, sticky, vacant, surprising; bun, oddity, tomb, place.)

The “resurrection” bun –

An oddity, a sacred theme

portrayed in cinnamon-sticky dough

(store bought, of course)

a sweet and vacant tomb.

I stifle cynicism, but

children will swallow this.

Was it thus for the women?

To seek flesh

and to find it melted away

in a divine burial oven, removed.

The place quivers with divine being,

yet is open.

The child and I both bite, expecting

the usual marshmallow-matter of earthly life.

 This bun, this resurrection: they are surprising.

30 Day Poetry Challenge!

Wahoo! I’m aiming to complete this. I don’t expect to get each poem on the day it’s assigned, but if I can do all 30 by the end of the month, good deal.

Day 1: Write a poem where each line starts with a letter from your first name (an Acrostic). It can be about anything, but it should not be about you or your name.

As in, always

being young and

indefinitely in love

generalizations

arise from the now, since you

invest in momentary units. anyways,

love is not a faculty of the mind’s extension.

Day 2: Who was the last person you texted? Write a five-line poem to that person.

If I were the sort to text,

If you had shared with me your number,

If I were impulsive,

If you could be awoken,

I would have suggested that we breathe spring air, together.