*Since the publication of this post in January 2011, the blog has changed its name to Welcome to Eclectic. Pack Mule for the New School was the blog’s title from its inception in 2010 until June 2018.
The name of my blog comes from a poem I wrote entitled “Ain’t No Tellin’ What’ll Become of Me.” The poem was published in a Louisville-based literary magazine called Churches, Banks & Bars, which I don’t think is in print anymore. To me, the title phrase means that I am just one of those people who does the plodding work of not giving in to hopelessness. I’ll probably never be famous or revered or rich, or even remembered in the long run. I will never run for political office or start a movement. I am a classroom teacher and a writer. I’m just a “pack mule” in this whole ordeal.
I wrote the poem from which the title of my bog comes for young people who think that life is over after our mid-20s have passed, that all of the energy and fire in our hearts dies . . . no, once that confused and anxious fury goes away, once all of those mistakes have been made and all of the learning from them is acquired we are able to get down to doing some real living.
The poem reads like this:
When we were young and angry,
it just came naturally,
it just came clear.
We were flying on the wind
like tiny grains of something-nothing,
agitating in the clear sunshine
like ecstatic pseudo-saints who could do no wrong,
born from supposedly siphoned-dry parents
whose dreams were funneled into another being.
Once upon a time we had
gasoline in our veins,
anvils for fists,
churning locomotives in our hearts,
the easy wind for breath,
and the rip roaring reasons in our brains.
Once upon a time, we were
casting out nets for anything,
pulling back old boots, rusty tin cans,
and the stardust from the sea bottom
that had fallen and settled and cooled
into the grandest statuettes of long lost ideas.
Once upon a time we
engaged the engorged,
had forests of phobias,
burned and boiled,
fought for fury
ate mud and milestones
bulleted the turrets
and clammed up to guard our pearls.
But I ain’t dead yet,
No! I ain’t dead yet!
I am now
the pack mule for the new school,
the last Mohican for best reason,
the plow that tills black earth now,
the rail track that don’t come back,
the dynamite of hindsight,
the rumble of the humble,
the gearshift of the near-miss,
the grinding of the finding,
the flint spark waiting to embark,
the arrowhead for the narrowly dead,
the combine for the high times.
No, I ain’t dead yet!
fueled by the sunshine
swimming in green grass
gilded with iron lungs
bronzed like a keepsake
pounded out of pure granite,
and I ain’t dead yet!
My twisted roots gnarl in the soil of
twice-gone matter-of-factly beautiful lies,
told back when times were hard
and remaining was harder.
My branches reach for the sky,
sifting through the delicate clouds that
rain down knowledge, hope and clarity . . .
when my time does come,
I’ll be shorn to a stump,
my body ripped into planks to become my own coffin,
and there, laid down in the black earth that I have plowed under,
I will live on as a memory in the minds of those who witnessed it.
But for now,
there ain’t no tellin’ what’ll become of me
I ain’t dead yet!