A Copywriter Takes On the After-School Program
As I walk up the steps of PS 246 in The Bronx, I wonder aloud, “How has it taken me so long to find my one true calling?” Until 3 weeks ago, I had been a rising star at an ad agency whose acronym even semi-savy midwesterners – like my parents – would recognize. My earning power was rising, as was the quality of my short, powerful sentences. My work was becoming more robust, more muscular with every pitch. I look to the sky, and I’m reminded of one of my final gifts to the world of tag lines:
Only rising stars can master their own universe.
That sentence, for instance, is a perfect example of my capabilities as a poet. One who was quite well compensated for his wordsmithage, don’t forget. But money and power are not enough for some people, meaning me. I felt compelled to share my not inadequate gifts with those most in need of verbal beauty – elementary school students in The Bronx. At the conclusion of their dreary normal school day, I will teach them poetry. They will teach me lessons both existential and pedestrian, lessons which occupy a universe unshackleable to language.
As an after-school teacher I will be freed from the tyranny of petty administrators, of the stifling demands that one must “develop a lesson plan” or “evaluate a student’s progress.” Instead, my classroom will be an oasis at which my students will refill their very souls with the mana that is my wisdom. Our associations – like the spirits of my brown and black apprentices – will be free. Our verse – like our associations, and the spirits of my brown and black apprentices – will also be free. Or maybe our verse will be Blank. I can’t really remember the difference right now, but my noble disciples won’t know the difference either, so I should be fine for today.
When I reach the top of the steps a thought shoots through my head faster than a really fast bullet out of a super sweet gun – Should I have brought a drum? I was told the school is primarily Dominican and Puerto Rican, with some recent African immigrants. Would these simple, beautiful people relate to my pale face better if it were accompanied with the steady beat of their ancestor’s instrument of choice?
Before I even have a chance to contemplate my potential miscalculation, a new thought shoves its way to the front of my mind like a rude person at some kind of rock and roll show shoving his or her way to the front of the crowd. Even without a drum, I reflect, I am not without music, for I have my ipod. Just like my future labors-of-love are never without music – for they feel it in their bones, from their forebears – I too am never without a simple melody. I will plug my ipod in to one of the many portable music docks this school is sure to have. My hip hop playlist will come in handy, just like it did during Orientation Week at my top-tier liberal arts college. These children will learn the words of Immortal Technique, and Sage Francis, and maybe a Kanye song somewhere towards the end.
I open the door to the school, to my new life. A life of sacrifice and service. And, I think, if this doesn’t work out, I can still freelance and bill at 80 dollars an hour.
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Even as I write this now I am debating whether or not to erase it all together.
When I say I’m in love with you, I mean I love the story I can tell to my next lover, about my ex-lover, about how beautiful things were, how intense, how storybook, what a couple we were, and how you gradually, inexplicably, painfully, bit by bit, disappeared.
“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.”
I was 24 and, while not gay, ever since college I had been getting more attention from gay men than from heterosexual women.