Poetry, Poetics, Po-business, Stuff Like That

high school

Snapshot of Child in Political Hat

Someone left it on my classroom floor.

(Every year the religion teacher makes them bring in childhood pictures “for discussion and reflection.”)

The girl in the frame is four years old, the hat a white straw boater, probably fake straw.

XYZ for President or Senate or Congress. Doesn’t matter who. She wouldn’t know or care.

Her head’s tilted slightly, though the hat is on straight. She’s got a do-you-like-me smile, so the photographer must be her father. Only Daddies can wreck their daughters’ dignity and still evoke that smile.

Who this girl grew up to be I can’t tell.

None of my student blondes would dare look that way now: silly, hopeful, sweet, sad. It’s a tougher world.

Maybe that’s why the picture ended up on the floor.

Maybe that’s why I saved it.

…………………………………………………………………………… Originally published in Expelling Trelnita (TJMF 1007).


The Alchemy of Worse Alternatives

The kids in the alternative school
are mad because Bill the Director
won’t let them
explore storm sewers,

so they write BITE ME, SHUT UP,
and DIE BILL on the walls
in colored chalk, and draw Bill
with a bullet hole in his head.

“Make the blood look real,”
one of them says.

Then a teacher laughs, “Hey
you want a sewer, we could
send you back to Main Campus.”

So the bullet hole gets
covered by a hat, DIE BILL
becomes a green cat, someone
hides BITE ME in flowers,

and SHUT UP becomes a big
fat peach in which nestles the moon
holding in her arms the sun.

(C) 2006 by Rick Stansberger, published in Expelling Trelnitz, TJMF Publishing, 2007.

The Youth

Cornfields made him think of sex.
Clouds made him think of sex.

Anything that came out
of the glowing car radio at night
went right into his brain.

The mothers stopped liking him
so he got along with the daughters.

Menace?  What menace?
He just liked driving fast
through cornfields on cloudy nights
with the radio loud.

Most Favored Nation

for Tom Romano, who saved it from oblivion

Here comes Claude
clutching his quiz.

He’ll fight you two hours
over half a point.

“His Dad’s an MD,
a Ph.D.
and an MBA,”
laughs Justin.
“The only way
he can beat that
is to get himself named
Most Favored Nation.”


And right now
you’re in his way.

Natural-Born Teacher

for BRL, with highest respect

She avoided a beating
that first day
by saying to her classes,
“I’m not white! I’m French!”

Got them conjugating
dirty verbs,
polly-voo from kids
who couldn’t read.

Started wearing dreads,
laughed when they found
a body in the recycle bin.

By schoolyear’s end,
everybody wanted her to stay —
hands, hugs, tears,
yearbooks to sign.

But no.

Her husband had quit
his very fine job
at the Very Large Array

and trucked her and all their stuff
deep into a canyon
to a place he built from scratch —
solar everything, highest tech —
and a hundred miles away
from any school.

Print publication: Expelling Trelnitz (TJMF 2007). Out of print. A few copies available. Contact author.

Life among the Units

They call us UNITS,
not kids,
students, or people,

Collin said
one day at lunch.

It’s true, said Gary
I heard ‘em talking
in the office.

Well they can bite MY unit
said Vic
grabbing the appropriate place.

When Vic made a joke
laughing was kind of required.
But they would have
laughed anyway.

Barry Mimmon

Back in teacher’s college
his adviser once told him
If you save a single kid
you’ll have done a year’s work twice over.

Cool! thought Barry Mimmon.

The first two years were tough.
He almost got fired for
lackluster performance.

Then jackpot!
The class whore reformed
and became his unofficial aide,
a punked-out lawyer’s son
his advocate,
and a young mafioso
got him a spectacular deal
on a hotel for the prom.

Bare Minimum
the other teachers called him,
as he drifted along
with his easy schedule
and the Principal’s positive regard.

While Gerschtenschlager
drilled his classes
into lean, mean, logic machines,
and Riddle gentled hers
into waking up,
Barry built the school’s community support:

generous donors, loyal
parents, fiercely protective
alums among the doer class.

Sociopathic bigwigs
Gerschtenschlager snarled.

There came some years
when Barry saved no one.
His kids sat quietly
texting or reading the paper
while he chalked up the board.

Didn’t matter.

Gerschtenschlager left to teach college.
Riddle became a supervisor for the state.

When Barry retired
there were tears, banquets
and a brand-new luxury car.