musings of a malcontent

seattle native, teacher w/out a classroom, bookkeeper, drinker of coffee and red wine, a constant work in progress

Archive for the category “poetry of sorts”

a smile so genuine

a renewed sense of happy washed over me. there are days we just need to smile, from the inside out. and these days often we simply can’t bring ourselves to ask for that hug, that kind word or that gesture of nicety. so when something makes us smile that smile so genuine and felt down to our soul, it’s a good sort of day. a text, a phone call, a postcard, a simple ‘thank you’ or ‘I miss you’ is all that it takes. it’s nice to be thought of, as basic and weird sounding as that is. a lifetime spent fondly thinking of someone, wishing for someone, praying for someone, hoping in someone, investing in someone, loving someone. it’s just nice to know others do the same for us and we revert to that place in time when you came home after school one day and told your mom, “they really do like me!”


Purell for my soul

my soul is dark, stained by life, not always for reasons i can explain or even understand.

it’s tainted by life. things i let in or don’t let in. both equally as damaging as the other.

there is light in it, but it struggles against the layers sludge i’ve spackled on it.

tiredness, laziness, better things to do, money, bitterness, a hazy morning after debauchery.

all these things i introduce and use, they are excuses.

so as i sat there in that seat, tears streaming down my face, i finally understood.

i had missed it so much.

surrounded by a feeling that had long eluded me, it was chasing me.

i had ignored it, i merely found more sludge.

the tears were warm, i remember.

this may not be the seat, the building, the people who become permanent, but they were there right then.

the music, the words, the hugs,

it was Purell for my soul.

huddled masses

it is negative, this space.

the people gossip and complain endlessly,

my respect they have not earned.

on the surface anyhow, this is my initial reaction.

if you look deeper, they are people.

they are not the ugly mob of malcontents they walk with.

their stories, heartbreaking.

they come from nothing, here to make something.

they are jaded and cynical, because life has taught them so.

they are the ones in news stories who milk the system.

they are the ones i judge.

rightfully so, but now with more discretion.

how do you work with someone whose decisions you don’t respect,

but whom you care about as a person?

tragedy and brokenness and negativity is their norm.

they exhaust me.

but my world collides with theirs for a few hours here and there.

so i observe, bite my tongue and give thanks that i’m different.

is that wrong?


how do we un-know something?

how do you unknow?

how do i unknow that my sister helped council kids who were trafficked into south africa for sex slavery specifically for the world cup? how do i unknow that and still enjoy watching the matches and participate in the festivities?

how do i unknow that pimps who prostitute underage girls in WA can potentially get no jail time? how do i unknow that the hot spot for prostitution in seattle is at one of the main corners downtown where i’ve walked regularly going to or from some fun activity? how do i unknow that so i can enjoy that spot?

how do i unknow that people who play online poker can get more jail time than people who drive drunk and kill someone? how do i unknow that and still enjoy going out for drinks with friends?

how do i unknow that the Cherry St. food bank feeds thousands of hungry each and every day in the city where i live? how do i unknow that as i pass a panhandler who asks for money?

how do i unknow that i once had a student who lived in the car with her mom who prostituted herself out just to make ends-meet? how do i unknow that and ignore the prostitutes who walk down the street in front of where i work daily? how do i unknow that as i drive past to get my next coffee?

how do i unknow that rape happens, has happened to those i love dearly? how do i unknow those details and still trust?

how do i unknow that she was beat multiple times? how do i unknow that and still stay out of other people’s business?

how do we unknow what we know?

we don’t.

we can’t.

and we shouldn’t.

if it does anything to change our thinking, action and compassion load just a bit, then unknowing isn’t perhaps the best course of action.


bank account overdrawn for the first time in a while.

great aspirations for grand travel adventures to relatively unknown places.

car needs new tires, mattress isn’t good, laptop parts are committing mutiny.

bills are due, change is craved, cell phone malfunctions.

when it rains it pours.

but i will not become slave to thoughts. 

thoughts consumed with how to get more, how to pay for what, when to pay for what, things i’d like to have but can’t and how to have fun without being irresponsible to debt.

sitting pondering my temporary tryst into pauper-dom will only allow time and life to slip by without notice.

time wasted pondering the ‘if only’ is life time wasted.

being poor isn’t all bad.

makes those silver linings shine brighter, makes the small things seem epic.

unsent letters

to whom it may concern.

i’m not always allowed to say what i want to say.  for the sake of preserving relationships, for the sake of keeping myself in check, for the sake of saying it with love but being afraid it won’t be received that way, i cannot always say.

to whom it may concern,

your sensitivity to the world and to those in need and to the feelings of others is what draws people to you.  you are loved beyond your ability to comprehend and truly believe it.  but your sensitivity is also often your situational downfall.  stop reading into unspoken words, stop putting the cart before the horse, stop.  just stop and step back from yourself, if that’s possible.

to whom it may concern,

your social wherewithal attracts people.  but your sincerity and discerning character allow you to weed through the bull and to find the true friends, so consequently you have surrounded yourself with very outstanding people.  you are truly loved! however you have now entered this new phase of your life and you are treading on a very fine thread.  you are closer than you realize, to losing friends who have stuck with you through thick and thin but now feel abandoned by you. you’re inability to multitask relationships of all kinds has left you isolated by your own doing, from those who are trying to reach out but you are either oblivious or don’t care. either which way, it’s sad and you are missed.  and time is running out.

to whom it may concern,

the declared loves of your life are not authentic.  you hide in a world of fiction and technology and dark and often self-pity and depression.  you are being reached out to and you don’t even notice.  the labels that have been placed on you are unjust and false and have burdened you to your core.  if only you could see yourself as we do. as i do. you are loved and your capacity to love is so huge, but it won’t fit into the small box you’ve climbed inside.

to whom it may concern,

where are you? you’re not here. you’re not with me. you should be.

to whom it may concern,

to say you pour your heart and soul into everything you do would i feel be a drastic understatement. passion leeks out of you and is contagious to everyone who has had the privilege of being in your life.  you have blessed many and many have blessed you.  and as one, we’d like to not be forgotten or pushed under the rug of your old life. but we fear we have and it’s either we cling onto the “c’est la vie” that’s life philosophy and pretend not to be hurt, or we continue to grasp at straws that we are present, somewhere in your sub-conscience as once important people to you. because you are to us. in bigger ways than you probably imagine.

to whom it may concern. to whom it may concern indeed. to the loved ones i cannot get through to… these are my love notes to you.

a different kind of poverty

so pristine and so manicured. 

luciousness and opulence are easily visible.

and yet, it all makes me sad.

the people, they smile but it’s as tho they’re pretending.

trying to fit in or trying to love it all. 

they look perfect, they patronize the coolest spots, their cars shine in the sun and yet real happiness seems to elude them.

they emerge from stores carrying bags full of purchased luxury, as if they are ever pursuing a dollar figure to acquire what they think they desire.

and they can’t.

they are not all together different from those on opposite life paths.

they share the same struggles and wants and hurts, they just can afford to mask it better.

and it makes me just as sad. 

emotional poverty.

pour forth speech

we spew forth opinions with little regard of aim

where will it land and what havoc will it wreak?

we give little concern.

seemingly small and innocent, to most sure

but to one.

to one, it alters and scars.

without realization of our words as weapons we live out our days,

benign words, actions, lives.

but that one phrase,

uttered in sincerity with no intent to harm,

remains in the mind and consciousness of the recipient.

whether truth or not,

words stick and must be used carefully.

spoken as poison or encouragement,

choose wisely.


What Teachers Make, or Objection Overruled, or If things don’t work out, you can always go to law school

By Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is,

“What’s a kid going to learn

from someone who decided his best option in life

was to become a teacher?”

He reminds the other dinner guests

that it’s true what they say about teachers:

Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his

and resist the temptation

to remind the other dinner guests that it’s also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we’re eating, after all,

and this is polite company.

“I mean, you¹re a teacher, Taylor,” he says.

“Be honest. What do you make?”

And I wish he hadn’t done that (asked me to be honest) because,

you see,

I have a policy about honesty and ass-kicking:

if you ask for it,

I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor

and an A- feel like a slap in the face.

How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence.

No, you may not work in groups.

No, you may not ask a question.

Why won’t I let you get a drink of water?

Because you’re not thirsty, you’re bored, that’s why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:

I hope I haven’t called at a bad time,

I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.

Billy said, “Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don’t you?”

And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,

I make them question.

I make them criticize.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them write, write, write.

And then I make them read.

I make them spell definitely beautiful,

definitely beautiful,

definitely beautiful

over and over and over again until they will never misspell either one of those words again.

I make them show all their work in math.

And hide it on their final drafts in English.

I make them understand that if you got this (brains)

then you follow this (heart)

and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make,

you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you,

so you know what I say is true:

I make a goddamn difference!

What about you?

cycle of self

It’s not their fault they look like that, I used to say.

One boy in particular in elementary school comes to mind.

Curly hair, soft spoken, a little odd.

I found a fondness for him, a kindred spirit if you will.

Mocked, for reasons unknown to me, we both endured.

I never got it.

Why would you do that?

Physical abnormalities you could call them.

His curly hair, my being tall and awkward.

Things we could do nothing about.

Yet almost torturous we dealt with the laughs, the words.

The many words that stung.

Tired of standing up for myself, my focus turned to him.

My words were strong.

On his behalf I stood, bold and unmovable.

In my own way, this was on my behalf as well.

Masked slightly but standing in for the same efforts.

To make fun of someone for things out of their control,

I cannot understand, I simply do not.

To what purpose does it serve?

Then it came to me,

Insecure in their own skin,

Anger turned sideways,

Aimed outward.

It’s nothing more than a cycle.

They were mocked therefore they mock.

It takes looking beyond your own pain to see the pain in others.

In their meanness, inside their rage, inside their unthinkable behavior,

I simply feel sorry for them.

It’s sad though, that it takes having to build up a thick skin to realize this.

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