Michael L. Newell
I was, for over two decades, an expatriate teacher who lived in thirteen countries (on five different continents) outside the United States. I have been published in Lilliput Review, Bellowing Ark, Current, and Rattle. My most recent book, Traveling without Compass or Map, is from Bellowing Ark Press. I have recently retired to the coast of Oregon where I spend considerable time slowly walking past creek, river, and forest. My poems mostly try to find connections across time and space, and similarities in the midst of differences.
Rows of students grimly scribbling, neatly
uniformed; they know they must
PAY ATTENTION TOMORROW IS THE TEST!
What about the day after tomorrow
and the day after that?
Another test? And another?
Soon they will be tested on whether
they can have children or marriages
that last or jobs spent scribbling in rows;
soon they will have grandchildren
in rows scribbling, neat
in their uniforms;
soon they will be uniformly in rows
laid beneath stone and earth
with scribbling on the stone;
soon there will be only the stone
with the wind scribbling; soon
there will be only the wind;
Published in A Stranger to the Land — Garden Street Press (1997).
Talking To My Students
Words stream through my mouth, a channel
for voices I had forgotten: there's my father,
how did he get in there--I thought I had left
him at the ancestral home and moved myself
on down the road; there's old Bob lecturing
my drama class--why the sneaky bastard even
slips into my English classes where he has no
territorial rights; Ben, dead and buried, brings
his ascetic haunted face and voice, his moral
clarity, into my discussions--softly scolding
my lack of rigor; singing a song, there is Joseph
smiling, nodding encouragement, making sure
I keep time accurately, hit the right notes,
remember the melody, treat the lyrics with respect;
I have become a river where streams merge--dozens
of friends, teachers, relatives, colleagues, students,
even an occasional enemy, have filled me
with their thoughts, their words, their rhythms; I am
a typical American, mongrel to the core, never one,
always many, never pure, always a mixture
of contradictory traits which strengthen one another;
my current carries with it the debris of every life
which has brushed up against me; my voice, I tell
the faces in front of me, is not my own, it belongs
to every person I have known; it belongs to you.
Published previously in the National Gallery of Writing (2009-2010).
(Abu Dhabi, 1991)
Once again the wind embraces fields, rough
arms shaking grass, bush, and tree,
an arrogant grip reminiscent of a father
tossing a child higher, higher before a saving
catch sure and full of coarse affection.
I remember flight out of and into my own
father's arms, and my own bearish handling
of flights for younger brothers and sister,
and they lift their sons and daughters
in excited flight, generations soaring;
and the wind wraps night
in an awkward tender grip
and rocks us all to sleep:
father brother sister mother tree bush stone…
"Cradle Song" was previously published in A Stranger to the Land (Garden Street Press, 1997).
©2015 Michael L. Newell