Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Poetry: Lake Bret Harte

If students attended Bret Harte during the years that a certain extremely negligent head custodian reigned, nearly every one of them would be able to tell you about this memorable “lake.” Located on the terrace where the kids ate their lunch, it was a body of incredibly putrid rainwater, rotten food and garbage that filled a concrete planter with a clogged drain. Being imaginative children, the students named it “Lake Bret Harte.”

Our daughter would complain and complain about the stench, but I never thought it would be as bad as she said it was until I checked it out for myself. The lesson here is to listen to your kids.

When workers from the District finally did something about the stinking hole, they just filled it up with asphalt. I always wished they had simply cleared the drain so the container could have been filled with soil and growing plants.

by George Higgins

Is not really one.
It’s not above the timberline
Lapping over lichened rocks or granite,
its gentle surf rattling stones.
It doesn’t freeze in winter
or slumber, fed by a glacial field,
nor does it wallow in the bowl, say,
above Glen Canyon Dam or Hetch Hetchy
houseboats bobbing in the shadow of sandstone arches,
although who knows all origins
man made or atmospheric?
What evaporates here may be deposited there
or piped somewhere else.
Nor did the writer Bret Harte ever sit
by its waters and calculate
a metaphor for this empty planter,
triangle shaped with six inch thick concrete walls
between steps and curb,
leading to the Cafetorium.
This isosceles triangle, a hollowed planter,
the kids say you could bury someone standing up
in this
Oakland Middle School bearing his name.
While the students eat lunch
this well fills up on rainy days but never drains.
It contains the
Milky Ways, the curdled cartons,
the discarded crust, decomposing batter
provided on the Black Top by a vendor.
Lake Bret Harte a name
created by the students
a lesson in irony, self taught,
their gift back to the bard
of the Oakland Hills.

January 2001

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