The National Museum of Brazil, September 2, 2018

There it goes. All of it.

Flames up and out, the roof

gone, history in ash.

An unquantifiable loss for

Brazil, for all of us,

and a reminder of our

total impermanence. I

don’t know what was lost.

It’s not a museum

I’ve ever visited.

Some bones, paintings, documents.

Proof of one thing

or another. Whatever

was stored there

is lost now forever.

And the paintings stolen

from the Isabella Stewart

Gardner museum—also gone,

perhaps destroyed, only

their empty frames

remain. The statues of Buddha

destroyed by the Taliban?

The books burned by Nazis

or marauding Vikings?

That painting your daughter

did in 3rd grade that you

accidentally dropped into

the recycling? You think

any art is safe? The universe

doesn’t need the Mona Lisa

or Declaration of Independence.

Even if those items last

ten million years, that’s

chump change to the universe.

The universe laughs

at ten million years.

Kid, I do ten million years

before I get up in the morning.

The universe does not

care what we preserve in

our wooden buildings.

That cold, infinite emptiness

is a cold, infinite emptiness.

So, there it goes.

All of it. The noise

of the loss is a vibration

(the bones, the documents,

all fuel, all gone,

no mercy, no farewell)

but heartache is brief.

I’m not saying you

should stow your

grief. I’m saying your

grief, no matter how wide

or deep, is temporary.

When the cold and infinite

emptiness comes calling,

the only human

response

is to

begin

again.

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Why is Clark Not Working?

I’m on leave for this fall semester. I can’t accurately call it a sabbatical because I’m not a tenure-track employee at the University of New Hampshire, but it amounts to the same thing. Many people ask me why I’m not tenure-track, or whether or not I can get tenure if I’m at UNH long enough, and the answer is that my position is contract based, contingent faculty, and I can’t get tenure because that’s a different employment trajectory. My official position is Principal Lecturer. I’ve been at UNH full time since 1999 when I started as a Lecturer; then I became a Senior Lecturer; then a Murkland Lecturer; now Principal. My duties in the classroom and to my students are the same as any teacher in a university setting, and most of my students refer to me a professor, but I since I was not hired tenure-track, I can’t officially be a Professor (note the lower/upper case P’s) at UNH, nor do I have the long-range security or higher salary of tenure-track and tenured faculty. On the plus side, I have to do less committee and university service work than I would if I was tenure track. Mostly, I get to concentrate on my students. I like that.

But I’m on leave.

I won’t be back in the classroom till January 2019.

What’s that all about?

Well, my Pedagogical Leave is a program built into our Lecturer contract (negotiated by UNHLU, my union) that allows long-serving lecturers the opportunity to pursue their work for a semester. The idea behind it is that it will benefit the lecturer, her students, and the entire university. There are four slots available each semester for lecturers that have served over six years. I applied last fall for consideration for this fall. My application was thorough, about a hundred pages long.

I was awarded the leave.

That’s why you may see me out and about when you might expect me to be in a classroom. You may find me scribbling in a notebook at a coffee shop, or attending readings, or riding around on our Vespa during regular work hours. I will also be spending a lot of time in yoga.

But I’m a writer, and the leave is mostly going to be about writing. I’ll be posting a few times a week here on my blog as a form of reporting on my experience. Already my “plans” for the leave have morphed into something new. But that’s for my next post. Until then, write on.