Thursday, March 4, 2010


Well they tried to get me ready
and they did the best they could
tryin’ to lead a horse to water
but you can’t carve rotten wood

so I packed up my intentions
and I signed my registration
and I started up that staircase
to some higher education

you can burn the midnight oil, you can burn up something sticky
you can swear to god you’re straight but all those white lines can get tricky
you might catch a couple cases, but there’s no need to get nervous
if you can’t afford the fines, their community needs service

Always fell a little short
always heard I had potential
but I never figured out
how to solve that differential

and I found that all the answers
from my best hallucinations
didn’t have a foil in questions
posed by higher education

yes we took the road to ruin all the way to west New York
while we weren’t sharp or pretty we got by on noise and torque
we misconstrued the meanings and we mostly made mistakes
and were halfway down the mountain by the time we tried the brakes

Even though I was surrounded
by good people I respected
couldn’t help but feel inept,
out of place and disconnected

and what I considered trying
was just spineless resignation
as I kept on sinking lower
in my higher education

you can blame it on the method, you can blame it on The Man
you can blame it on the witness as he’s sworn in on the stand
you can blame it on the mirror when the image gets effaced
but it’s harder getting wasted when there’s nothing left to waste

So I failed and I bailed
unencumbered by degrees
and I sold my books in boxes
with my pride and memories

and the best that I can hope for
in my shame and consternation
is to manage long enough
to outlive my condemnation;
maybe find a grain of wisdom
or some kind of graduation
in the crest that crowns the crater
of my higher education.


Julie said...

I'd rather hang out with the narrator of this poem than anybody I ever met in higher education. Well, okay. There was that really cool girl from inner city Cincy. And a couple of others. But for the most part, I could not relate to them. The narrator of this poem feels like a good buddy who likes to hang out by the bonfire and tell stories all night long.

Big applause for this poem and for the line of the day..."but you can't carve rotten wood." That is awesome. I love the pacing of the poem, too, and how every third stanza breaks off in that fantastic voice of rhythm. It reminds me of a chorus in a play, and I like that. Thanks again, Joaquin. I enjoyed it very much!

Karen said...

This is the voice I love in your work - that folksy, swinging speaker who tells a story, takes us places, and defies expectations. I have to agree with Julie's comments about the rotten wood line and the pacing and the chorus.

I love the characters you create.

Sidenote: I love Jeff Buckley, but I've had "Hallelujah" stuck in my head for weeks! As much as I love it, I'm beginning to think I need help!

Anonymous said...

what a wonderful poem story... love the changes throughout..

Aniket said...

Whatever Karen said about that folksy voice. :P You must be a star storyteller among kids!

I could connect to the 'higher education' stanzas more than the rest. I too believe I've learnt more from my hallucinations.

Nevine said...

You've just reminded me of that song, "Another Brick in the Wall" by Pink Floyd... "We don't need no education/We dont need no thought control". In your poem there is the voice of resignation, but there is also the voice of determination. I don''t know how you managed to pull that off, Joaquin, but if anyone can manage anything with poetry, it's you. An awesome read!


BloggerMouth said...

"Always fell a little short
always heard I had potential
but I never figured out
how to solve that differential"

I don't know who told you that you fall short. They're wrong. I know it's my word against theirs and mine really doesn't make a difference. But here in blogsville you're pretty much my favourite poet. I know that you possess something most people who get recognized instantly lack. It's called integrity. You'll never sell out and that's what makes you awesome.

catvibe said...

The way you render words into story poems is a trick and talent so very great. Captivated by this, every word pulling me deeper in.

If this poem was autobiographical I'd be screaming, NOT ROTTEN WOOD. For you make some of the best carvings around with your stories Joaquin.

Sarah Hina said...

That book over there in your sidebar seems a pretty fantastic diploma, all by itself. If you had to trade in the rest of those books to write that one, then I don't think you need regret much.

This poem felt like an exorcism of the past. An honest, if merciless, self-humbling, if only to square up to a future that promises nothing, but still burns with intentions, questions, and potential. From that perspective, I felt some hope in that last stanza. Like there was a fresh, if fragile, resolve born from the act of acknowledgment.

Beautiful, rolling narrative voice to this one, Joaquin. I always love when you splice in those italicized stanzas--they're so wonderfully effective.

RachelW said...

There's fun in that! Defeat, too. Dust, uncomfortable heat, and the smell of a shitty job.

Cartesian Quies said...

Joaquin, I've got to say, I absolutely love the poetry. Not to mention that you've had albums from Nick Drake and Jeff Buckley (my two all-time favorite artists) on your blog in the last couple weeks.

joaquin carvel said...

julie - thank you! when i was in high school i asked a guy i knew - a doctor - to tell me something wise. he came back with "you can't carve rotten wood". a few years later he was arrested for fondling sedated patients - which is probably why that line stuck with me.

karen - i'm so glad you used the word chorus - sometimes i'm not sure if i'm writing poems or songs - though i'm ok with it being a blurry line. thank you. (i don't think you need help - that's just the brilliance of leonard cohen!)

u-frag - thank you!

aniket - yes, the kids love me - but i think that worries the parents. thank you. learning is learning, right?

nevine - resignation and determination - i don't know how that works either, but i think you're right. thank you.

blo-mo - it's the numbers that determine falling short. but it's people that make a difference. thank you - integrity is a strong word, and i appreciate it.

cat - that made me smile - thank you!

sarah - it's a start, i hope, which diplomas sort of are. and "exorcism" is a great word for it - i kind of hated writing it - which is weird, but in the end, seemed better than not, if that makes any sense. anyway, thank you.

rachel - you can smell it too? but then, i live in a state where unemployment is 12.5%, so i don't complain. much. thank you.

cartesian - thank you! that means a lot coming from you. (with great musical taste to boot!)

maaga..... said...

your words always make me feel like singing for some reason...a joyful noise? indeed!!