High over Fifth Avenue the squirrel paused, and I could see him from the cab, but no one else could. Wild animals can pause so powerfully.
Last week I called the Department of Education, and they told me I was not eligible for a New York state teaching certificate.
The reasons are both stupid and complicated: I never took the last class for my master’s degree, and I apparently took one of their state tests a month too late. I don’t remember. It was a while before I had enough money to pay for all three exams.
I’m quite in shock, still.
I was on the bus home, and a child was sitting behind me singing to himself, and I wanted to strangle him. This isn’t like me. I like children very much.
I ranted about it for a while. Then I drank a glass of water and went to sleep. No: I had dinner and a drink with colleagues, then I went to a reading where I began hopefully and ended looking at every book in the bookstore and not finding any of them right. Then I went home and drank a glass of water and went to sleep.
This whole adventurer part of me is deeply satisfied in New York, and with the past few years, and the settler in me, the farmer, is hysterical.
When I wanted to strangle the child, I got out headphones and looked at the man next to me, who was handsome and had headphones in, too, and we glanced at each other, I thought like, that kid is sweet and annoying as hell, at least that’s what I thought we thought. I canceled my eye appointment. I was in no shape to find a new place and do any kind of tests, even tests of, “This one? Or this one?” Especially that one.
It is hard for everyone to believe how much I still love teaching, even city kids, after how much grief trying to teach city kids has brought me. Everything brings you grief, though.
I thought I would go to the museum. I realized once I had my coffee all I could do was visit the cathedral. I coffeed and wrote and put in headphones there too to drown out the most pretentious man on earth, who was sitting at the next table and vehemently impressing a younger man with tales of the amazing things he had done In The Music Industry, With Jazz.
And then I crossed the street, up the long stairs, across the width of the church to buy a candle. I took the sharpie, because I know how it works, I told the lady, “I’m going to borrow this,” she said, “Of course, take it as long ass you need it.” People write on their candles. So they can be specific. There were twenty burning already. One had Japanese characters. I wrote on mine, avoiding the word “hell” because that seemed in poor taste in the setting. Though the cathedral was its always dark and pockets of glow self, the whole soundtrack of a basketball game was behind it. They must have a basketball court underneath, or behind, the cathedral. The shoes squeaked and the ball padded and kids yelled.
There was this poem of Marianne Moore’s, on a music stand, by the poet’s corner:
you’ve seen a strawberry
that’s had a struggle; yet
was, where the fragments met,
a hedgehog or a star-
fish for the multitude
of seeds. What better food
than apple seeds – the fruit
within the fruit – locked in
like counter-curved twin
hazelnuts? Frost that kills
the little rubber-plant –
leaves of kok-sagyyz-stalks, can’t
harm the roots; they still grow
in frozen ground. Once where
there was a prickley-pear –
leaf clinging to a barbed wire,
a root shot down to grow
in earth two feet below;
as carrots from mandrakes
or a ram’s-horn root some-
times. Victory won’t come
to me unless I go
to it; a grape tendril
ties a knot in knots till
knotted thirty times – so
the bound twig that’s under-
gone and over-gone, can’t stir.
The weak overcomes its
menace, the strong over-
comes itself. What is there
like fortitude! What sap
went through that little thread
to make the cherry red!
Image: Cherry Blossoms and a Snail, unidentified artist, Edo period, Metropolitan Museum of Art.