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Monday, December 15, 2008


by Scott Simpson

Jacob stole his birthright,
being clever and tricky
and gets the bad rap
on account of greed,
but what about the sin of Esau
who sold his birthright for a single
bowl of soup?

And sure, at the time
it seemed reasonable
Esau seeing nothing but his hunger
                    —gut wrenching hunger
but emptiness doesn’t always
render us clear of sight—
sometimes it shapes desperate eyes
and snatching hands.

I imagine Esau there at table,
hunger sated, realizing now
the emptiness of the bowl
the emptiness—
what he’d given up…

                    or maybe not,
maybe Esau simply belched
and excused himself, because
satiation doesn’t always
render us mindful
of consequence.

Keep brother stuffed;
he’ll never know he’s being taken.

And sometimes my own hunger
is the voice I hear telling me to short-sell
for a few immediate spoonfuls…

I have seen the children
of stolen birthrights,
stolen, in the end, by their feeders--
by those who have something
to sell them… and something to gain
from the selling.

And I’m a teacher
for Heaven’s sake,
with a bowl of soup
and some hungry students
willing to eat
what I’m dishing up--
filling the pits of swollen bellies
with what’s been mandated
with what the research says
will surely fill them.

And I could spend days
feeding them data soup
chock-full of standards
in a warm broth of best practice
and we could raise the bar
make AYP
incentivize the path
till no one’s left behind.

But what if something
has been squandered
while I was ladling—
what if they’ve traded
some blood-right,
some unique mark…

What if we educators
have helped them trade
a birthright
for a bowl of
compliance soup?

Scott Simpson is a former high school teacher, college professor, camp director and lay-minister who attempts to live a contemplative lifestyle on a planet that views quietness and stillness as destructive ideas that could potentially undermine the fabric of society. He, indeed, hopes to undermine the fabric of that society with quietness and stillness. Scott lives on a planet called Earth. Scott's poems have appeared in Switched-On Gutenburg, BigCityLit, and New Verse News, and anthologized in In Praise of Pedagogy (2000, Calendar Press). You can listen to some of Scott's music and poetry on MySpace.