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From Cathleen – On being a teaching artist in the public schools and how it sometimes feels

March 19, 2012

“The Guardian Angel”
by Stephen Dunn (American poet, 1939- )

Afloat between lives and stale truths,
he realizes
he’s never truly protected one soul,
they all die anyway, and what good
is solace,
solace is cheap. The signs are clear:
the drooping wings, the shameless thinking
about utility
and self. It’s time to stop.
The guardian angel lives for a month
with other angels,
sings the angelic songs, is reminded
that he doesn’t have a human choice.
The angel of love
lies down with him, and loving
restores him his pure heart.
Yet how hard it is
to descend into sadness once more.
When the poor are evicted, he stands
between them
and the bank, but the bank sees nothing
in its way. When the meek are overpowered
he’s there, the thin air
through which they fall. Without effect
he keeps getting in the way of insults.
He keeps wrapping
his wings around those in the cold.
Even his lamentations are unheard,
though now,
in for the long haul, trying to live
beyond despair, he believes, he needs
to believe
everything he does takes root, hums
beneath the surfaces of the world.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2012 2:40 pm

    yes…..20 years teaching English and drama in a troubled public school…sometimes violent and cruel…..Viola Spolin …improvisation….theater games….rewritten Israel Horowitz ,remove the obscenity…….Ellen Stewart and Peter Brooks and Eric Morris…read ’em all and bring them to class then send them out to……..30 years later….they’re on my face book page….they remember and it mattered….you just can’t know how those small moments with you will take root and matter, matter matter…………….

  2. April 18, 2012 8:18 pm


    I always resented all the years, the hours, the

    minutes I gave them as a working stiff, it

    actually hurt my head, my insides, it made me

    dizzy and a bit crazy — I couldn’t understand the

    murdering of my years

    yet my fellow workers gave no signs of

    agony, many of them even seemed satisfied, and

    seeing them that way drove me almost as crazy as

    the dull and senseless work.

    the workers submitted.

    the work pounded them to nothingness, they were

    scooped-out and thrown away.

    I resented each minute, every minute as it was


    and nothing relieved the monotonous ever-


    I considered suicide.

    I drank away my few leisure hours.

    I worked for decades.

    I lived with the worst of women, they killed what

    the job failed to kill.

    I knew that I was dying.

    something in me said, go ahead, die, sleep, become

    them, accept.

    then something else in me said, no, save the tiniest


    it needn’t be much, just a spark.

    a spark can set a whole forest on


    just a spark.

    save it.

    I think I did.

    I’m glad I did.

    what a lucky god damned


    — Charles Bukowski

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