He says the problem with teachers is
What's a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life
I'm for reckless abandon
and spontaneous celebrations of nothing at all,
like the twin flutes I kept in the trunk of my car
in a box labeled Emergency Champagne Glasses!
Raise an unexpected glass to long, cold winters
and sweet hot summers and the beautiful confusion of the times in between.
To the unexpected drenching rain that leaves you soaking
wet and smiling breathless;
Here's to the soul‐expanding power of the universally
optimistic simplicity of the beautiful.
See, things you hate, things you despise,
multinational corporations and lies that politicians tell,
injustices that make you mad as hell,
that's all well and good.
And as far as writing poems goes,
I guess you should.
It just might be a poem that gets Mumia released,
brings an end to terrorism or peace in the middle east.
But as far as what soothes me, what inspires and moves me,
honesty behooves me to tell you your rage doesn't move me.
See, like the darkest of clouds my heart has a silver lining,
which does not harken to the loudest whining,
but beats and stirs and grows ever more
when I learn of the things you're actually for.
That's why I'm for best friends, long drives, and smiles,
nothing but the sound of thinking for miles.
For the unconditional love of dogs:
may we learn the lessons of their love by heart.
For therapy when you need it,
and poetry when you need it.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
I'm for hard work, and homework,
and chapter tests, and cumulative exams,
and yearly science fairs, and pop quizzes
when you least expect them just to keep everybody honest.
For love and the fragile human heart,
may it always heal stronger than it was before.
For walks in the woods, and the for the woods themselves,
by which I mean the trees. Definitely for the trees.
Window seats, and locally brewed beer,
and love letters written by hand with fountain pens:
I'm for all of these.
For Galway Kinnell, and Rufus Wainright,
and Mos Def, and the Indigo Girls,
and getting closer to fine each and every day.
For the integrity it takes not to lightly suffer fools.
For God, and faith, and prayers, but not in public schools.
I'm for evolution more than revolution
unless you're offering some kind of solution.
Isn't that how we got the Consitution?
For charm and charisma and style
without being a self‐important prig.
For chivalry and being a gentleman at the risk of being called a male chauvinist pig.
I'm for crushes not acted upon, for admiration from afar,
for intense sessions of self love,
especially if they make you a nicer person.
I'm for the courage it takes to volunteer, to say "yes," "I believe in this," and "I will."
For the bright side, the glass half full, the silver lining,
and the optimists who consider darkness just a different kind of shining.
I'm for what can be achieved more than for what i would want in an ideal world.
I'm for working every day to make the world a better place
and not complaining about how it isn't
So don't waste my time and your curses on verses
about what you are against, despise, and abhor.
Tell me what inspires you, what fulfills and fires you,
put your gaddamn pen to paper and tell me what you're for!
First of all, it's a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you're walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain't no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?
On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.
Love doesn't like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.
Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.
Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Somethimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don't you ever do that again!
Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you're all wound up and you cannot move.
But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.
Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.
Though not a secretive man,
my father understood combination locks and keys.
Yes, he was a Yale man. And he had a love affair with brass.
And he had a key rack as organized as the writing on the label of each key was neat.
It's the same angel that made him label and date
butcher‐paper‐wrapped leftovers in the refrigerator
with Christmas‐present creases & hospital corners
and little 2 by 2 post‐it notes with possible suggestions
for the leftover's use: "Turkey scraps. November twenty‐three.
Yummy treat for the D‐O‐G?"
secured with (count ‘em) one, two rubber bands,
one for snugness, the other for
But there's an art to labeling keys.
The one you keep to your neighbor's house
cannot say on it:
"Neighbor's house across the street.
In Maine for all of May."
Similarly, GUN RACK, BURGLAR ALARM,
SPARE SET OF KEYS TO SAAB IN GARAGE:
these are labels you will not see at our house.
Instead, my father wrote in his own argot,
in a cryptographic language of oblique reference;
the key to the burglar alarm he called THE SIREN'S SONG,
the gun rack, THAT INFERNAL RACKET,
the neighbor's house across the street was now the FARM IN KANSAS.
VICTOR was the Volvo, HENRY, the Honda, GABRIELLA, the Saabatini.
A security of the mind, no doubt, and not so much precluding burglary
as offering a challenge to the industrious burglar,
as well as evincing from my brother and me
much in the way of loving parody,
such as the key to the side door which we labeled:
NOT THE KEY TO THE SIDE DOOR,
DESTITUTE NEIGHBOR'S SQUALID HOVEL FAR, FAR AWAY,
BOATHOUSE IN BAY OF FUNDY.
But among the neatly labeled keys
(some to cars we no longer possessed, like POTEMKIN and GERALD, the Ford)
is a brass ring of assorted expatriates called KEYS TO UNKNOWN PLACES.
Little metal orphans, they have lost their locks; or rather,
their locks have all lost them, misplaced them all in the same place,
on the same ring, which is a sadness no bolt cutter can cure
Even the key that says simply HARTFORD—
somewhere there's a door, a box, a closet full of secrets locked—
and the only thing I know about it is that it is probably not in Hartford.
I keep them all, jingling and jangling, turning the tumblers of the past.
Who knows when I might not be in Hartford again
and have a need for such a key?
Who here knows nothing of magic that escapes
every time a key that should unlock a door
In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true, okay,
as opposed to other things are, like, totally, you know, not—
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?
What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .
And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!
I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.
Taylor McDowell Mali (born 28 March 1965) is an American slam poet, humorist, teacher, and voiceover artist.
A 10th-generation native of New York City, Taylor Mali graduated from the Collegiate School, a private school for boys, in 1983. He received a B.A. in English from Bowdoin College in 1987 and an M.A. in English/Creative Writing from Kansas ...