Untitled, and That’s Okay

Look at the birds of the air . . .

I am not able 
– it turns out –
to influence the machinations 
of this world 
through my state of disquietude 
no matter how strong 
that state might be

So I must relearn to breathe 
to release 
to try to control only 
that which is mine to 
have even the illusion 
of control

I need to accept 
the reality of things
as unreal as I might 
find them

I must disconnect and 
find the virtues of a simplicity 
I’ve not known 
since my earliest years

Anything else is futility

Sanctuary is in the straightforward 

– – – – – 

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26, NIV

The Student Information System

School starts in ten days and  
I have a list of names in a spreadsheet
freshly extracted from the student information system

The S. I. S.  

Fourth graders, all
as that’s what I teach 
Fourth graders.  You’ve heard that old line, right? 

“Oh, you’re a teacher.  What do you teach?”  

“Fourth graders.” Awkward pause.

I’ve looked at that spreadsheet and even queried the SIS
that all-knowing database
but found it to be missing some information

The student in the 11th row 
is he excited about coming to school?  

I wonder about the kiddo in row 4
Science is her favorite subject
but how can I help her love the others?

Does Row Number 6 know that Row Number 8 
is worried about making friends
just like he is?

Row 2 can’t wait to tell me about her summer,
her trip, and all the fun she had, yet

There’s no mention that Row 23 
wishes she could forget the last three months

Row 14, I’ll find out on my own
loves reading while snuggled on the couch 
with his new step-mom

But that’s not in the database  

I have birthdays and addresses 
I guess there’s that

Summer Weather

Predicting the weather, especially in the early days of summer in the south, is always the pursuit of a moving target.  Air pressure rises and falls, fronts move, winds shift, and water vapor collects in white masses that turn to gray then turn to black. Temperatures drop ten degrees in a matter of minutes and the trees wave back and forth, welcoming the lashing they are to take.  Nature holds on.

warm turns to cool
clouds roll in from the west
we brace for what’s next

Don’t Read the Comments

I have an opinion, and a way to get it out there
…….I can share it, so I will
What’s an “informed opinion?” I don’t care — this one is mine
…….And that’s what matters
I see that you have an opinion as well, your own point of view
…….Even though it’s flawed
As easily as I can share my opinion, I could do some reading
…….That doesn’t matter
I have no time for nuance, as there are other battles to be fought
…….I have an opinion
You’ll try to scroll on by, but you’ll probably see it, this opinion of mine
…….I can share it, so I will


Tim Gels, Draft

Please note: This is not an autobiographical poem!

Out of State Plates

The driver ahead of me hesitated
physically straddling the line between turning or not
as one does when a decision is uncertain.

It was a small car, road-dirty with out-of-state plates
and a single occupant, a man whose greying hair 
was visible in the early morning light.

As I would too, he pulled through the light in the turn lane
and it was curiosity, I confess, that soon had me alongside him 
for just a moment before pulling ahead.

Perhaps mid-60s, needing a shave but not a haircut.
A look of concentration with his left hand on the wheel
and his right clutching a sheet of paper.

A few moments later I looked for him in the mirror, but he was gone. 
Where was he going, this far from home?  
Where was I going, this close to home?

Shaking the thought, I slowed once more 
dutifully put on my signal 
and made a turn into the rising sun.

Picnic Table

A picnic table sits beneath a spreading white oak tree
just outside the building where I spend many of my days 
extending an unspoken invitation to all who walk past it.

Perched on a slight incline, it is bathed in deep, cool shade, and 
a breeze has, more often than not, accepted the invitation
and it, in turn, entreats passersby to do the same.

Were it not for the heavy chain tethering the table so close 
that the tree itself takes two of the end seats 
that haven on the hill would be perfect.

Enjoy the table, but don’t steal it.  Things are complicated.

Draft, May 2021

Black Locust


“How do you know it’s a black locust?”

It was a sincere question
and
honestly
I had to think
for a few seconds 
before I answered.

The easy answer
the one I didn’t give
was it couldn’t be anything else.

With those compound leaves
it wasn’t any of the oaks
or maples
redbud was out of the question
as was beech
and tulip poplar.

With those leaflets
as small and numerous as they were
ash, hickory
box elder
buckeye and even pecan
were off the list.

But on that late April morning
it was more than just 
seeing what it wasn’t

It was seeing what it had to be.

With those dangling clusters 
of wondrous white flowers
laden with nectar, pollen,
and bumble bees

It had to be a black locust.
It couldn’t be anything else.

“It’s the flowers,”
I said with a smile.


Just a note:

I know and understand that most people don’t know how to identify the trees around them.  Or the flowers, shrubs, and grasses.  There are so many I don’t know . . . lots more than I do. 

In the early grades, we often use what’s known as “environmental print” to help students to read.  Environmental print is helpful because almost everyone, even children at a young age, can recognize it — it’s ubiquitous and you know it at a glance.  

When I learn with people — especially young people — outdoors, it’s my hope that they would develop a familiarity with the world around them.  Much like recognizing the M that is the golden arches, it would be great if, at a glance, we could recognize the plants and animals around us.  

To paraphrase Aldo Leopold, we can’t love what we don’t know.

Conflict

Man vs. nature
I would write in the margins
back when I was made
to do such things

I remember that
along with man vs. man 
and man vs. self
— conflict

Now, some forty years later
as I walk the trails
and see 
what I see

I wonder why
I never wrote
nature vs. man
I wonder why

back when I was made
to do such things

—–

Just a note: I understand we more-accurately say character instead of man these days.  This poem takes me back to the 70s.  A lot of things were different back then. (And a lot of things weren’t.)