Every morning, I try to remember my dreams. Chicken-scratch them down. Henpecks on the grains of eternity. Ink bound in journals to carry. Everyday, I see people I want to be, but am not. Every night, I lay my head to count blessings. I’m reading and writing and teaching and more importantly, learning.
Stepping onto campus to face the second year is nothing like the first. This time last year, read it, I was an anxious bundle of unfocused energy, still am, perhaps more so, but I now know what to expect and in some ways the pressure is more intense, one third done. Nudge. Nudge.
It took one email to find another apartment. I know the names of all the streets and department members and buildings. Easier to get into the room on time, I know where to eat and when and what to order. My office desk and bookshelves welcomed my return, old mates, sisters-in-arms. I know the bike trails. Shucks, I’m second year, I know everything and can mentor the incoming cohort. I can appropriate Albuquerque and feel splendid.
Most of the summer I was offline plugging away in solitude with little success again. For a writer, not a college instructor, logging alone-hours is re-charge. When I realized the foundation was crooked, I read like a night-watchman, only socialized with my wife, barely. Now, back on campus there are lectures and meetings and parties and committees and activities and invitations and cool readings and students and emails—detail-laced-bucket-loads of ship-sinking emails.
Social-time has become more a minefield of management than plot and sentence structure.
I’m absolutely terrified of offending anyone and I’ve never felt this way before.
I want to say yes to everything, but know I’ll let them down. No one has time. We’re all arm-wrestling for attention. Wanna go camping? I do. Wanna join the Graduate Committee? I’d love to. Wanna read grants? It’s 50 bucks. Sure. Wanna pick the best five stories out of 250 from the summer contest? Sure. Wanna study Joyce? D.H. Lawrence? Apply to Ph.D.s? Find a job? Certainly. What about that grant, contest, you wanted to apply for? Can you tell me which is the best textbook for Composition 101? I can, just let me wipe the sweat off my brow, please, this desert sun is scorching. Are you going to the Balloon Fiesta? State Fair? Can you help with this? Can you write another, better recommendation? Can you copy-read this for me? A quick scan, proof, anything? Let’s get a…
Whether on the asking or receiving, this is college. This is America. Busy is good. Get stuff done and love it, but dios mio summer was relaxing. Leonard Cohen-Roberto Bolaño relaxing and that little mantra-voice spewing in the back of my silly-sarcastic-skull repeating, “Jez, this MFA stuff is getting in the way of my life and my writing.” Then boom, back into a lecture hall or classroom or workshop or super-inspiring reading by the duck pond with that falling light from the Sandia mountains so sublime that light yes and pounding desert wind jiggling the leaf shadows. Koi footlonged, in May they were guppies. Did I say I’m doing an independent study in Joyce ?
Ok, hump-night on the second week of term, 23 minutes before the end of the month. If you’re a studious and contentious reader, lol, hahaha, you’d know I’ve always posted, turned things in long before deadline, the 10th, 17th, 22nd at most, but not the 30th at 11:43. I like to toe-tow the line, good is done, get it in in time. Perhaps that is not working anymore, perhaps I’m just adding to the white-noise-internet-blubber and need to shut the pie hole, grill the other flank, time is done, glorious while it lasted, but others must now…
Like much of what I feel, I wish I could chip syntactic little nuggets to nourish my invisible reader, one and all, but ok, the audience, potential MFAers… Entering second year is like awesome dude, like so much going on and your teaching right, and like there’s your writing and be careful what you say yes to, you know like cause marking and covering like the requirements you know can totally like drain your time and listening to all the information is inspiring like… but how do you fit it into what you want to do and make friends and be a good person and cover the bills?
Each keystroke, a choice, call it political, call if self-promotional, pray it helps other.
The splatter of chaos ordered into narrative can give heart. Even the gross and sick will comfort the smug and healthy. Mistakes will be made and the riskier, the more ineluctable.
I’m 39 minutes late, will you mark me down? Blame it on the images, not the traffic, nor the wind.