Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Poem: Redwood Spines

You ask me, dear student, why I'm making you read aloud
why just writing isn't enough.
You tell me you're tired angry frustrated narcoleptic
downright pissy with a middle-finger sized chip on your
shoulder so why can't I leave you the hell alone.

Listen up, because this is bigger than the now

Look at the paper on the desk in front of you
look at the stack of papers on my desk
A tree had to die for them to exist
and you know where that tree went?
your spine, you've got a mighty redwood tall and glorious
for a backbone you just don't know it quite yet
My job is to help you find it.

It's okay if it hurts for a while. New spines usually do.

Secret #1: You're gonna need that spine for what I'm
about to ask of you.

That tree we killed left a column of air unsupported,
and that column's job is to hold up the stratosphere
keep it from sinking in
We've already got a hole in the ozone layer
don't need the atmosphere to drop down
and smother us anymore than it already has

You gotta be strong enough to keep the stratosphere up
It's the only way your ideas can take flight

Secret #2: There's an atom bomb in your voice-box
and the timer's ticking it's been ticking since the day
I met you, dear student.

Let it explode.

You've got your redwood spine it'll keep you upright
now let that voice box explode I'm talkin' about volume
I'm talkin' mushroom clouds so thick they block out the sun
I'm talkin' 9.7 on the Richter scale measured halfway around the world
I'm talkin' tsunamis as tall as the redwoods
but you're taller your roots run deep your spine is strong

You are an earth-shaker mountain-maker so powerful
that when you destroy something you make it more beautiful

And when I photocopy every page you've written a thousand million times
and build a life-sized paper-mache working replica of the universe
I want you to open your mouth and
smash it into a million pieces light so bright
I go blind 'cause looking at the crater you leave
is like looking at the face of god,

and then you shove a stick of dynamite in each of my ears
and push the plunger, telling me "In case you didn't hear,
this is what it's supposed to sound like."

It's okay if I go deaf. I already know sign language.

Secret #3: Your words are powerful, like redwood spine powerful
like mountain-moving powerful

I want each page to be like a bottle-rocket library
all fired at my eardrums as soon as you whisper
'cause we don't write five-paragraph essays here
we write 5-part controlled demolitions

And after you've whispered, I want you to stand up
tall and straight with your redwood spine, and from your
atom-bomb voicebox I want you to dare me, just dare me
to knock that middle-finger sized chip off your shoulder

and when I do, dear student,
I want your words to grab me by the throat
and sucker punch me in the kidneys
again and again and again and again
until you've shared with me your ideas in full
and I understand: glorious, violent comprehension

Finding your redwood spines and atom-bomb voice-boxes is worth it.

It's okay if I piss blood for a week - this is bigger than the now.