Friday, May 19, 2017

Old School Ties

Circumstances bring me to my old high school
Like a salmon returning
To the cannery.

The buildings stand like
Half truths in the school’s prospectus.
Disguised by modernity the familiar blocks
Still retain their overbearing aspect:
Bewildering stock pens
From another dimension where
Chemistry, Shakespeare and Matrices

These are the fields of my nightmares
Trapped in a perpetual uniform, or naked,
Always facing exams I never studied for.
Where any real world achievement is

How we yearned to escape
The petty tyrants of our day
In cars, bars and other’s arms.
To rise above their pit and angry faces
Sublime, beyond their power.

Even now I see around me
the earnest faces of today’s sports teachers
Blend into a single form; a mind focused on some
Goal perpetually out of reach, but whose recourse
To salty sarcasm and matey encouragement
Etches their names in the memories of a
Generation like a notorious sergeant major.

And yet
From my vantage in years I see a different scene
Underpaid, working weekends; devoted and
Weary, teachers running a thankless treadmill.
Like devotees of some secret religion
Whose creed of social betterment was long ago
Abandoned by politicians, desecrated by technology
Leaving only empty catechism, ritual lesson plans
Whose reflection of economic reality has long faded.
These are the true believers who stand alone
Sadly chanting, socialism, egalitarianism
and the rights of humankind
As business elites mock and jeer, enlisting
The broken crowd to their cause.

This is the place we are broken.

Here is the collision between
Childhood and markets.
Opportunity and frustration
Obedience and democracy
Choice and compulsion.
In the very structure of its bones
The school is a contradiction
Of all it stands for.

No temple of thought
It is a wheel for compliance.
A stamp, a certification,
Of unquestioned
hoop jumping.

This is the place we are broken.

This is the place
We have broken.