Stepping out,
Not that Joe Jackson song,
But the idea that all the rigamorole
Is not so heavy a burden,
Rather, it’s a flimsy tissue
Meant to be broken through
With one inspired snot rocket.

Passing through the constraints,
The airborn potential pearl
Is free of the limitations imposed
By the sanitary catch all
And well on its way
To challenging both gravity and stasis,
Either, the result of too little ambition
Or too much apathy.

Snot, it’s not who we are,
We are survivors, thinkers, dreamers,
People who can do more than wait for a sneeze,
Maybe we can do sixty percent more,
And if we can shoot mucous through some one-ply
Who knows what is possible when we are
Stepping out.


Wandering minds
Let opportunities waste
In their seeking
Of whatever it is
They drift to.

Focused thought
Seizes potential
With certainty
Of whatever it is
Will wants done.


Photo Credit: Binyamin Mellish via Pexels

Under achieving
Used to be something I worried about
Now I laugh at those
Who think they know
What is best for others

Who are these prognosticators of potential
Claiming that others
Have what it takes to go far
Who are we to say others
Just aren’t living up
To all they could be

My life has been one of decisions
Not based on potential,
But rather how I felt at the time
It was my choice to waste time
As others saw it, but
I saw that “wasting” as living and learning
About what was important to me

I spend my professional life
Telling students how well they are doing
On whatever it is
However, I can’t evaluate them against
Whatever that is,
I must tell them how they did in the moment
Letting them decide whether
They reached THEIR potential

So gypsy caravans with crystal balls
Dialed in to potential
Have you reached yours
Or did you find something comfortable
For you

Years had passed
Since she first came to America
And I left the haze
Of starting over

She stepped off the bus
A sixth grader by age
But no where near kindergarten readiness
Her life lost in language limbo
Due to missed connections inside
And an over stamped passport
As her family fled the Middle East

Stability was returning to me, back then
A new life full of hopeful uncertainty
And newly developed perspective
After years of solitude
Where poetry, music, and thought
Wrought appreciation for the people
Strapped to the edge of life
As they wrestled with the demons of difference
In the Middle East

Each day of her first year
We walked her to her home room
And by the end of sixth grade
She almost always new my name
But never the best way
To her classroom from the bus

I transferred that year
Moving up to high school
And three years later
She is now my student
Her memory of sixth grade distant
Her memory of the last class period nearly far away too
Her English expanding
Her energy engaging

My thoughts of the travails of Syria, Egypt, and Israel
Have been brought back by violence unbelievable
And I wonder why the world can’t appreciate
The love and respect Franti captured
In his documentary back when my student
Was leaving her home
And I was marrying mine
I can’t help thinking
What she remembers
Or what she could teach us
If only her brain would allow

So today after a relatively benign
Health lesson that probably
Went way over these kids
Who thrive on repetition
And wallow in the misguided efforts of educators
To dummy down college prep curriculums
For all students
A most amazing thing happened

“Do you have any pets?”
Came a tangental question from one young man
Just back from work washing dishes
At the senior center

“Yes, two cats.”


“Neko and…”

I paused
Uncertain of what might happen next
A totally unexpected moment was unfolding
And my young student from Iraq
Who had matured to ninth grade
But still lived under the cloud
Of learning delays
Leaving her understanding elementary
Was the key to the complexity
Of all the meaning of my journey
Alone years ago


The rest of the class
Similarly challenged
Gave me the nods of knowing
My pets’ names
And the confused look of “Huh?”
At the name, Habibi
But my young student
Whose family fled tyranny
Had emerged from the academic haze
With a giggle that was all high school girl

The others looked at her
With a character like Horshack asking what was so funny
And me asking her to tell them

“His cat’s name means sweetie,”
She said with pride and embarrassment
The rest of the class roared with delight
Like a scene out of Mr. Kotter’s class

What followed was a lesson
She, the queen of language etiquette
On the proper use of Habibi
And when it means “good friend”
Or when it is a term of affection

Either way
She left the room
The expert today
Something she rarely gets to experience
I left the lucky one
Able to have been part of a moment
Deep, authentic, cosmic
In its touching
Of past and present
And enlightened again
By the connections that are possible
When we are open, aware, and not
Dismissive of others