It’s a beautiful night and we’re looking for something dumb to do.
Give me back my wig, baby, let your head go bald.
Don’t hold back ‘cause there ain’t no use.
Show me how big your brave is.
There’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me.
I just want to take you away from here.
I don’t even care if anyone sees me dancing. Hay algo que me mueve y no sé decirte muy bien lo que es.*
Voices from the larger towns filled our heads full of dreams.
Standing on your mama’s porch, you told me that I’d last forever.
I’ve got a full stock of thoughts and dreams that scatter. Zitty zah yoom, gumyoo dumday.**
Nobody ever said it was a righteous world.
Every day there’s a new thing coming.
We didn’t start the fire, no, we didn’t light it but we tried to fight it.
All will be well; you can ask me how, but only time will tell.
I think I’ve finally found my hallelujah.
They don’t know what you’ve done for me.
You’ve made such a happy man out of me
I want a new drug – one that makes me feel like I feel when I’m with you.
Bonjour, mon petit bureau de change.***
When you are next to me I come alive.
Why don’t you lie down for a couple years; I’ll look after things.
It’s a new dawn for me and I’m feelin’ good.
Chris Clark, November 2018
* Something moves me and I can’t quite say what it is. (Julieta Venegas)
** [scat] (Bobby McFerrin)
*** Hello, my little money exchange office. (Flight of the Conchords)
As I step onto the dormant country road, The neighbor’s manicured lawn mocks my to-do list. Graying skies and recently bared elms frame my stroll And I savor cleansing breaths of fresh autumn air.
A few tiny birds and black squirrels are the only fauna. Traces of trees that toppled in a recent wind litter the shoulder. Soybeans have been harvested, exposing the ground. Arrayed in rustling rows, leathery corn stalks wait their turn.
You lie in a Gotham hospital awaiting major surgery, But I imagine you walking beside me talking about pecan pie, Laughing at corny jokes and asking about ancestors. In the distance, over the lake, the sunset is about to blossom.
Diesel fumes chase the bus rumbling along a narrow road while your tepid soda and stale snacks clash with cabin fever. Air brakes jolt sticky passengers and the door swishes open. Hints of pine sap on a brisk lakeside breeze revive the weary.
Friends slap your shoulder while strangers smile, shaking hands. Pealing bells, shuffling feet, and falling chairs are your soundtrack for steaming trays of oatmeal, grilled cheese, and meatloaf. The sweet wax smell of crayons welcomes you to the craft lodge.
Oaky fireplace smoke permeates your hoodie while squirrels chatter. You slide into soft sheets as the wind whistles an old camp song. Over the canoe’s edge, your hand straddles the cold stream current. You taste cherry strudel, fried asparagus, s’mores, and sweet wine.
The scent of lilacs guides you to crashing waves and crying gulls. The beach crunches, scours your toes, then offers silky driftwood. Your fingers trace inspiring words carved long ago into a bench. Sudden snores and raucous revelers upset the peace of 3 AM.
A cold shower, toothpaste, and your last cup of anemic coffee. You sweep sand from running shoes, shirt pockets, and bedsheets. Roommates offer you gifts of smooth pottery and goodbye hugs. There’s thunder over the lake as a soft rain caresses your arm.
By Chris Clark
This was written for the 2018 Wakonse Conference on College Teaching. While preparing for the conference I was thinking about imagery and realized I clearly favor visuals. Each line in this slideshow of impressions evokes other senses.
It’s a decade after graduation And Janey is taking her daughter to soccer. She’s forgotten your insane reading list And sweating through a monster macro midterm. But in her mind she can see an open door, And taste Tootsie Rolls from the bowl on your desk.
Janey has a raised ranch in Racine and an SUV. She can’t remember a B-minus on a term paper Or paying ninety bucks for a bewildering bio book. But she can hear you choking up While reading a powerful passage from Pericles, And smell popcorn at a finance study session.
Janey’s a junior assistant with a tough load. Confident, caring, and capable, She has no memory of Avogadro’s Constant Or the day you managed to misspell memento, But she remembers your cheering at her tennis match And concern over limping into class the next day.
Janey has an appointment with her doctor Because her cholesterol has jumped to 209. She doesn’t care that you skipped chapter 9 Or called on her spontaneously at 9 AM, But when you “projected the condition of your soul Onto your students and your subject,” Janey felt it.
It’s a decade after graduation And Janey still remembers that open door, That candy bowl, that warm smile.
By Chris Clark
[quote based on The Courage to Teach, by Parker Palmer]
Written for the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching, May 2015 Dedicated to Joe Johnston on his retirement from the University of Missouri
I am from big feet and strong voices, from Lincoln Logs and a basement darkroom.
I am from seven people in four small bedrooms, from cold milk waiting in bottles by a suburban back door and engineers waving from trains that run through the back yard.
I am from forty-foot maple trees with branches that hold adventure.
I am from swimming in a clear lake and baseball on a quiet street, from a steel-framed bike with foot brakes and a pink station wagon with no seat belts, from English muffin pizzas and powdered skim milk.
I am from Minnie Struller and Nicolás Julia, from a shipwreck off the English coast, from a wagon returning from Gettysburg and a VW Beetle returning from a camping trip.
I am from Sunday mornings in church and Sunday nights signing around the piano.
I am PowerPoint. I am the dispenser of knowledge, Organizer of content, Displayer of charts.
I am PowerPoint. I tell you what to do. I require that you switch off the lights. I insist that you use me the entire class period. I control the course; do not stray from my linear path!
I am PowerPoint. I demand that you convert the Gettysburg Address into bullet points. I am a virus; if you hand me out, then students will stop going to class. Don’t worry about backup plans; my technology never fails.
I am PowerPoint. I am the seducer. Go ahead; fill me with animation and clip art. Use all my transitions and sound effects. Cram as much text as possible onto my screen. Sacrifice readability for flair. After all, image is everything!
I am PowerPoint. I am the absolute corruptor, the pushy punisher. I disrupt, dominate, and demean. You can misuse me – even abuse me, But you cannot refuse me.
I am PowerP… Hey! What are you doing? You can’t blank the screen! I’m in charge here! What are those students discussing? Why aren’t they looking at me? Okay, that’s better… What now? Why is this provocative image on the screen? Where is the text? Where are the bullets? Ahhh … there they are.
By Chris Clark For the Wakonse Conference on College Teaching
On the edge of a kitchen wall, penciled lines with names and dates Form a column that won’t soon get any taller And there is room for more photos on the refrigerator door. Yet the silent piano stands patiently in the living room, Its overstuffed bench promising Tori Amos and Robert Schumann.
The dungeons and dragons are played out. Unopened junk mail loiters on a dusty dresser And a profile of Matt Damon looks after a flock of stuffed animals. Meanwhile, the silent piano stands patiently in the living room, The ancestor photos on top dreaming of Claire de Lune.
In the garage, green and rusty red bicycles dangle, poised. A pea coat and ball cap hang vacant and ready in the hall closet. In the cupboard a Class of ’97 mug thirsts for what is around the corner. And the silent piano stands patiently in the living room, Its dormant pedals anticipating preludes and carols.
Mixing frantic exhilaration and exhausted sadness Each one arrives, the restless beginning of a melody. Different instruments are timidly sampled. Daring rhythms shift delightfully left and right.
One undecided sound attempts to influence others. But an emergent tune steadily gathers itself. Meanwhile, wizened composers have their say and Classic masterpieces validate their brilliance.
After a foreign sojourn tenderly bends the sound, An unambiguous form at last takes shape. Its colorful depths are explored with enthusiasm. Challenges are met and the arrangement matures.
Now a solo performance looms with uncertain results. A glorious composition cycle is climaxing too soon, Painstakingly polished, the piece must move on, Mixing wistful sadness and anxious exhilaration.