I look above at empty space
A place of progress to embrace.
I look below at growth erased
A wall of advancement to trace.
A marriage, and a home, and a personal business.
My former student finished her dissertation on forgiveness.
And now I read students’ papers about Freud, or Chaplin, or Knapp
and their personal stages of development.
A home bought from a divorcee who loved white furniture,
and twenty students of mine won Gold in Speech as a determiner
of class, and status, and I held down three jobs
while struggling with Said, Baldwin, Spivak and Hobbs.
A shared bedroom with a Dutchman in the Back Bay,
while teaching students how to argue and write a persuasive essay.
Eating dry Ramen, and working at various jobs with various sharks
hardly gave me time to read Foucault, Derrida, or Marx.
As a student in an apartment with a sleeping bag on the floor,
and three roommates who thought cleaning a chore.
I saved my paychecks from the theater and hours at Taco Bell,
and read books by Kant, Plato, and Hegel.
As a child I grew taller in a vintage mobile trailer
with deluxe appliances for my mother and a sailor.
I mobilized the American Dream in the tree-less plains
of Western Nebraska and read Dickens, O’Neill, and Twain.
Once, long ago, pencil marks on the kitchen archway measured our rise like weeds climbing to taller heights and we grew. Reviewing the lines on the wall shows us where we were and where we are, and all the unmarked space of where we could grow. Now that the years passed, the seeds of knowledge grow old within us, and blossom more slowly, more invisibly, and the development becomes us well. The markings of growth no longer in the kitchen but on a cloud of students and classrooms. They help us climb each rung, and with each new learner, we acquire strength and pull up to the next level. But what is it growth is for, that has endured much, but to endure more?
To grow we must know from where we came,
where we started this old measuring game,
and recognize the dates on the wall.