Visiting Poets (Spring 2012)

We are grateful to Lauren Wolk, Assistant Director of the Cultural Center of Cape Cod for making it possible to have poets visit freshman and sophomore English classes at Sturgis East this year.  Thanks to dynamic visits with poets Christine Rathbun and Greg Hischak, we can see interest in poetry is growing at Sturgis. For example, this year’s campus-wide Poetry Out Loud competition was well attended . We are delighted to see our students engaged and inspired by poetry.

After Christine Rathbun Ernst’s visit to her sophomore class,  Alicia Watts wrote me: “I thought (Ms. Ernst) was inspirational.  She encouraged students by saying: ‘You each have stories and they need to be told.’ Afterwards, one of my students said ‘she makes me want to be a writer.’ My creative writers were absorbed in her spoken word and spoke very highly of her in a follow-up discussion.”

Morgan Derby also teaches sophomores.  She wrote “My students and I were all inspired – and humbled – by our visiting poet. When we debriefed the visit – which was the culmination of weeks of poetry study – my students unanimously agreed that they had all learned to enjoy reading, writing, and reciting poetry in ways they had never before imagined possible.”

My favorite student comment  was about Greg Hischak:  “Crazy yet lovable.”  When I told him, Greg said he would like to have it carved on his tombstone.

Greg Hischak and Christine Rathbun Ernst have graciously given us permission to print the following poems.

The Temperature on Mercury

— Greg Hischak

During the course of a day here on Mercury

temperature fluctuates between terrible extremes

from nights of -320˚F—where even out of the wind

every night is the coldest night of the year to days

of 930˚F—where even in the shade it’s hot

and here on a planet totally devoid of even trace amounts

of Fresca—930˚ can sometimes seem like 940˚

But keep in mind those twenty minutes in the morning

and again those twenty minutes of late afternoon when

between these terrible extremes of temperature

it’s really not so bad out—consider that twice a day

here on Mercury there’s opportunity for a short stroll

or maybe a coffee—a hot beverage enjoyed in the glow

of a rising sun

perhaps a cold beverage quietly sipped

between the lengthening shadows—just you and I

We’ve always had these handful of minutes

here on Mercury

tucked between pan-seared day and freezer-burned night

these windows of opportunity offered us—you and I

here on Mercury

always entrusting within these twenty or so minutes

twice a day—everything


— Christine Rathbun Ernst

the piano is heavier than she’d thought

she had not counted on the leg falling off when she decided to

rearrange the living room that morning

and it is beginning to slip from her grip     the piano      the baby grand piano

easy enough to nudge it away from the wall         its three legs were on casters after all

its three one-hundred year-old legs, though     so

when she reached under the treble end corner and found purchase and took a deep breath and heaved it up

to try and kick the rug beneath the leg out of the way

the leg just dropped straight down           and then over onto the floor          thunk

then four fat 100-year-old screws         plink plink plink                    plunk

and then a little pile of sawdust sifted down onto her bare foot

so blithe she was       arrogant really

to think she could move a  baby grand by herself without even shoes on her feet

martha  stewart  turned wile e. coyote holding a live grenade holding a listing piano

while her toddler daughter skips around the room

skips around the listing piano        what you doing, mommy?

panicking, baby, mommy is panicking now get out of here this is dangerous

go jump on the bed while I figure this out

while she figures this out

as if she were removing a stain doubling a recipe folding a fitted sheet

figure this out

and not holding        barely holding          a piano

headlines of catastrophe now clog her panic

mommy crushed to death in tragic decorating mishap

mommy might have lived had she taught toddler to dial 911

mommy gnaws off own hand after piano pins her, now ironically will never play again

her grip feels wet from sweat or maybe blood and she knows

she has mere moments before this all truly goes to hell

but adrenaline or fear or god arrives and she manages

to hook like a side-show contortionist the piano bench behind her like charlie’s angels hook with her bare

saw-dust-covered  left foot the piano bench slide that bench forward dangling from a cliff ellen ripley sarah connor that bench that miraculously happens to have upon it a stack of music books slide that bench like lara croft she is so between a rock and a hard place so close to disaster she can taste it slide that bench defuse the bomb destroy the asteroid save the baby slide that bench forward jam with her knee

the Big Book of Broadway Favorites under the corner where

thirty seconds or minutes or hours ago

a carved mahogany leg as thick as her thigh as old as she hopes to live

had just been            for a century

until she thought to move it

life itself is peril, she thinks and hands bleeding sinks to the floor

the rest of the story is not as interesting

she gets the drill and reattaches the leg

she cleans the blood off the piano

she makes the toddler some lunch

she does not rearrange the living room

she wonders how she will explain her bandaged hands to her husband



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