the seventies-style lampshade, dented in three
ascending spots is the thin shield between his life
as a teacher and life as a writer. starting a poem he
swivels to the deepest dent, almost, almost a rip
and takes a swig from the engraved flask he received
post-graduating, a ritual more than anything, this
is the same rum from two weeks ago. but he considers
"poets are thirsty creatures" for the next title
of a book, essay, something. trolls the new medias
for new medium, reads a story about depreciating
values of degrees and vice versa.
circle-paces his porch, perking ears for neighborhood gunshots.
haven't been in years. one of students asked him
what life was like in the olden days, squeezing childish
truth-telling into teenage dickishness, but professionalism
forbids one from getting feelings hurt.
back inside. the rum remains stubbornly in the flask,
he doesn't reach for it. tosses a stress ball
at the ceiling; it only ever when things are breaking,
what happened to the last lamp, but he saved the shade.
forty minutes later, a finished product on his screen,
exhausted but not sleepy, sober but fuzzy-visioned,
the slow trot of some forgotten reference winces
through his backbrain--
as long as standards keep dropping. . .it says,
but doesn't finish the sentence.