my friend is Clytemnestra, my friend is an eagle
my friend is eating salmon, onion, pumpernickel
and telling me she has no hope
my friend has taught in China, my friend has worked in Burma
my friend has backpacked Europe, toured India
but can’t imagine a future
my friend is a rare intelligence, my friend was chosen for this program
my friend was one of six in the whole wide planetside
my friend can’t breathe
my friend is a gilded serpent, the sea-salt fruit of the world tree
a long red tongue lapping honey and pomegranate seeds
in the underground
my friend is tired beyond desire, my friend needs a couch to sleep on
costume jewelry for her Cleopatra, a cup of coffee, a symbol
she takes a nap in a panda mask
my friend is sleeping
now the kettle is quiet as a candle flame
now that old overcast sky gleams with a glancing slyness
and outside the window while you rest, a sex-crazed
sparrow cries piteously for love, for love!
he calls and calls, and then falls silent, and the Earth is rounded
like a mother’s breast, can you see it?
everything is horizon
6 responses to “Graduate School: An Outsider’s Perspective”
Oh graduate school! I do not miss you. Not in the least. It was amazing to me at the time how much better I felt when we moved away from where I was going to school. I had to do my last few courses mostly by email, but I also set up my own piano studio–and discovered I was really really competent. Graduate school exhausted me and made me feel always a little short of excellence. (Sometimes a lot short.)
How long ago was it for you? Is the wound still fresh? Do you have any wisdom for someone who is, perhaps like you once were, half-drowned in those stressful seas?
Holy damn. Yup.
I wasn’t the one you asked for wisdom, but I found myself giving some to a student last week, and I’ll pass it on: I said something to the effect of this: just take what comes as it comes, and try to breathe. You don’t have to beat it or succeed over it, you just have to be still standing, or even sitting, and still breathing, when it moves past.
They try to trick us, to make us think the goal is to win; they are lying, the goal is to survive, to complete. The belief that we have to win is what drains us; the goal must be to just be there and do what needs to be done. Hope and future come later; now there is just doing. And breathing.
Bless you for helping let her sleep. ravelled sleeves and all, you know?
My friend just saw the poem this morning, and I hope she reads this too! Thank you for all you do for your students!
This post and comments herein are warm and beautiful. Thanks to all of you for sharing.
Thank you for reading!