Rehearsal for the holiday concert. Gift making. Field trip to the high school for a concert. And then flakes of snow falling! A ripple runs through the classroom. As it snows harder, everyone runs to the window and cheers! Meanwhile the regular schedule has disappeared, the teacher crosses her fingers that they will finish that last unit before winter break, and wonders how bad the driving will be on the way home.

It’s a delightful time of year, but also very stressful, even without masks, COVID tests and controversy about what is or isn’t safe. Those students who live on the edge to begin with are easily pushed over in this tense season. Teachers have ways to help students relax as the last week of school before break draws near. I found drawing or coloring, word searches, partner reading or read-aloud effective in keeping everyone on an even keel.

Despite the stress, I always enjoyed teaching. I liked the company of young people, the way they saw the world through their youthful eyes. Plus, I was passionate about the subjects I taught, particularly writing. I would sit beside my students and write along with them. We looked at examples of effective writing, especially in their own work. When the weather was good, we would write outside, letting the natural world inspire us.

I also invited other writers to class. Martin Steingesser was a favorite. He emanates peacefulness and joy. He knows how to beguile even those students who struggle with writing. One of my favorite memories of Martin is when he accompanied us on a field trip to a cemetery in Troy where we settled among the gravestones to write. The sunshine, Martin’s quiet comments, and his flute playing as he moved from student to student produced some very fine writing.

This poem is from his book “Brothers of Morning,” published by Deerbrook Editions in 2002, and expresses Martin’s joy in both teaching and writing. The poem is called “Brothers of Morning Brush My Eyes” (copyright 2021 by Martin Steingesser). Martin lives in Portland and is the author of three books as well as serving as Portland’s inaugural poet laureate, 2007-2009.

Brothers of Morning Brush My Eyes

Sun coming up full in the rearview mirror, traveling through Hope, Liberty,

Palermo, South China, West Paris, kids along the road, standing around,

kicking stones, sunrise on their faces,

 

Myself crisscrossing the state, heading for classrooms of these same young lights

of Portland, Kennebunk, Monhegan, Jackman, Caribou, Lubec.

 

Lucky man, I tell myself, no joining the dots, no filling spaces on other people’s clocks.

I’m a lucky man, afoot with a vision, tooling along, stereo tuned and balanced,

the spring highway turning to black gold.

 

Now a red-tailed hawk, another—three! arpeggios of lift, brothers of morning,

I salute you, this green moment and surrounding mountains our only nest.

 

Three hundred horses, Percherons of pistons and fire running at breakneck,

and I have them by the wheel,

 

Saddlebags stuffed with poems, Walt Whitman beside me on the front seat,

windows wide open, sunup and stars blowing out of his beard, and Yes!

 

Morning laughs for us, the open road spinning our wheels, we’re riding the big Earth

and together lean on the horn, sounding our barbaric honk and Yahonk!

Judy Kaber is Belfast’s poet laureate.

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