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December 28, 2020 39 min



Jacob stole his birthright,

being clever and tricky

and gets the bad rap

on account of greed,

but what about the sin of Esau

who sold his birthright for a single

bowl of soup?


Sure, at the time

it seemed reasonable

Esau seeing nothing but his hunger

—gut wrenching hunger

but emptiness doesn't always

render us clear of sight—

sometimes it shapes desperate eyes

and snatching hands.


I imagine Esau there at table,

hunger sated, realizing now

the emptiness of the bowl

the emptiness—

what he'd given up...


or maybe not,

maybe Esau simply belched

and excused himself, because

satiation doesn't always

render us mindful of



Keep brother stuffed;

he'll never know he's being taken.


And sometimes my own hunger

is the voice I hear telling me to short-sell

for a few immediate spoonfuls...


I have seen the children

of stolen birthrights,

stolen, in the end, by their


by those who have something

to sell them... and something to gain

from the selling.


And I'm a teacher

for Heaven's sake,

with a bowl of soup

and some hungry students

willing to eat

what I'm dishing up--


filling the pits of swollen bellies

with what's been mandated with

what the research says will surely

fill them.


And I could spend days feeding

them data soup chock-full of


in a warm broth of best practice

and we could raise the bar

make AYP

incentivize the path

till no one's left behind.


But what if something has

been squandered while I was


what if they've traded

some blood-right,

some unique mark...


What if we educators

have helped them trade

a birthright

for a bowl of

compliance soup?





That afternoon he'd been stripped

not so much like a banana or an antique

chair, but


quite like some kind of ice

sculpture, having yet the chain-saw grooves

to prove the artist's process—


fresh from the freezer, unsheeted

for show...


He was now gathering

into a puddle

under his own feet

and the hors d'vours were warming

(infinitesimal buzzing of flies,

cheese dark'ning ever-so-slightly)


Rot's a process like stripping

only rather than disambiguation

rotting obscures...

like a peach in the

windowsill, forgotten and now


no longer a peach

but a hard lump of a sow's

severed ear

not hearing, of course,

but also never to be a silk



Whether he was coming clear

or perhaps growing mold

he was not certain,

though he knew he was

in control neither of their eyes

nor curious hands


The innocent are always intrigued

toward tactile amusements,

groping and fondling

the frosty surface, leaving

little fingerprint windows to




but curiosity, as they say, kills



               in a swirl of red,

and he knew as the world tilted

it was he himself askew

and not the snot-nosed toddler in the smart

blazer, his mum releasing only one

brief cry before

the shattering moment, the tremble

of cocktail sauce simultaneously flipped

and letting bright droplets...


At their feet,

his integrity scattered into gritty


like safety glass or human teeth

on the floorboard of the fatal

automobile accident beneath

the still-bleeding passenger,


he knew even the Jaws of Life

could not speak the pieces back into

what he'd dreamed himself to be.



grass clippings like tea leaves


Today, I'm reading the future

from yesterday

laid out in sun-blanched clumps

where mower blades have battled

these less than civil blades and won.


This neat appearance almost argues

design as giver rather than taker,


but fastidious reason

is no creator, it offers mere pruning;

the mower has cut things short

for a season

and this grass will never come to head,

produce seed.


Above us, the Bookcliffs slice late morning,

shadow bleeding into this valley;

my students sprawl upon the

soccer field with journals

and seedling ideas riding the sharp tips of their

burrowing pens.


We hear the mower still at work.


Who can say,

No more—

Growth stops here?


Only the tiniest ant

working deep among

the hidden roots is safe

from the whirring

of the blades,


but, for these twenty minutes,

this young sun,

these credulous pens,

tilling naive pages, we are

all taller.

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