The prompts were:
Just another day at the office
Out of the mouths of babes
I’ve got good news and bad news
My poem is below.
It’s a wave crashing,
falling over itself
coming down hard.
It’s the week ahead
rolling toward the shoreline of work, work, work
nothing but work, pulling me in, in, into the undertow
Lists and obligations and student papers and meetings
and phone calls and emails
that never-ending stack of essays
young minds struggling with verb placement and the reason for a comma
introductions to hook the reader.
Meanwhile, they’re distracted by acne and fantasies of stardom
the latest music videos, hip-hop tunes, bling, bling, and bling
how to be sexy and slutty and still respectable,
to maintain agency,
when they don’t even know what agency means.
Agency? What’s that?
An agent is someone who gets you into a movie, right?
Agency. Or the lack thereof. That’s my concern, anyway.
Conviction: the self on paper.
How do I teach them about the self on paper?
When I’m buried in deadlines and reply-to’s and notebooks,
When the list of personal errands I can’t get to grows so long
I’d have to take a leave of absence to buy a sofa, have a massage,
because of all the work, the homework, the workplace work that comes
with this territory, this territory of counting absences and asking people
not to interrupt, and helping someone literally young enough to be my daughter
spell misogyny. “What’s that mean?” she asks.
What’s that mean? “That’s the hatred of women,” I say.
She writes it down. Shrugs. “That sucks,” she says,
a white light coming on in her head.
The lists and the obligations are stacked so high between us,
I almost can’t see the light, but it’s there. It’s there.
And for a moment