Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mockingjay Part 1—a review

My review of Mockingjay Part 1, now up at PSYCHO DRIVE IN. Click on the fabulous Jennifer Lawrence to go read:

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thursday, November 27, 2014

You might—poem

"You might" appeared in RATTLE #29 in 2008. It's my reply to Kim Addonizio's poem "The Matter."

You might

Some women let you feed them chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream spoonful by spoonful
Some women let you brush their hair before going to bed
Some women seem so terrified of contact you feel sad
Some women wonder why you are so scared of contact
Some women like to be alone, but not a lot
Some women have good relationships with their mothers though I don’t know if they’re in the majority
Some women dress sexy then get mad when you want to fuck them
Some women just laugh at you
Some women write poems you want to fuck
Some women will tell you stories while you masturbate even though they would rather you fuck them
Some women will fuck you

Some women seem to decide whether they want to marry you or not in the first month
Some women get confused when you don’t want to
Some women don’t want children but will rarely admit it in public
Some women have children alone because fuck it
Some women don’t watch tv, but not a lot
Some women go to movies alone, though not a lot
I don’t know any woman who will go backpacking alone
Some women play guitar or saxophone and you want to be with them just for that, even if they have a history of insanity in their family

Some women eat spaghetti with chopsticks
Some women smoke pot daily
Some women talk about writing screenplays
Some women actually do
Some women marry rich men because they think the men will be good providers
Some women even tell themselves that they love these men
And when they eventually divorce they marry other rich men for the same reason
And though some women might marry men who earn less money, this causes problems

Some women wanted to be vampires when they were girls
Some wanted to be mermaids
Some wanted to be catwomen with purple fur and tails
Some women act more like girls than some girls, and versa vice, and both are more attractive because of that though you’re not sure you want to be with either

Many women will take any excuse to skinny-dip
Some women like sex though many need some catching up to do
Some women have more porn on their computers than you
Some women take their clothes off for money, though these women are not recommended
Some women are more attractive when they have a boyfriend or husband
Some women bake pumpkin pies and carry them on the plane as a present when they visit you in New York
Some women sound relieved when you call and say you just can’t move to Seattle to be with them
Some women keep trying to interest you even after you have moved out, which hurts more than the moving out
Some women have been fucked (up) by their fathers and will never be right and it’s not your fault though it maybe seems like it and feeling sorry for them is not a reason to stay
Some women are fine with being with you for the month you spend in Salamanca and won’t even necessarily cry when you say goodbye in Madrid, though you might

Some women like men
Some are scared of men
Some seem to feel both at the same time, which makes you feel weird
Some women will wait for you to decide to get your life together, though not a lot, and not forever anymore, if that was ever true
Some women are right there, visible, with bruises
just like yours

(Joan Jett because she's awesome)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My tattoo—poem

"My tattoo" appeared in the Huron River Review, in 2010.
My tattoo

She would be a woman of course
with long black hair
that would turn green with time
and smiling knowingly
though I don’t think anymore
that I would want her to have devil wings
or a pointed tail

She would still show some leg
and I think she should be clothed
though how I’m not sure—
perhaps a librarian?
or a mexican bandita?
or a flamenco dancer?
a dominatrix seems too obvious

She might be holding a book
but which?
War & Peace?
no, Anna Karenina!
in fact she could be Anna!
in the ballroom scene
with the shoulderless black dress
but then she couldn’t be smiling knowingly
she would have to be smiling radiantly and sorrowfully

I had thought also she could be a gypsy
playing a violin
with large hoop earrings
and a red bandanna
or a pirate queen
or even Red Sonja
but not a cowgirl
though for the record cowgirls are sexy too
and I don’t know how she could be drawn as a wildland firefighter
since green and yellow nomex isn’t that sexy
even if a woman’s face covered with dirt and ash is

I think though
that what’s important
is that other women enjoy her
and they don’t mind sharing me with her
and that in bed they would trace her curves with their fingers
in the semi-darkness
calling her by name

Thursday, November 20, 2014


"Balthus" originally appeared in the The Pure No Nonsense No. 1, in 2007. Enjoy.


I Les peintures de Balthus

In the paintings of Balthus
it is difficult to know
if the girls are asleep
or aroused
or dead

in the paintings of Balthus
the girls stare at mirrors
have cats
and seem unsure if they should be ashamed
for letting someone look under their skirts

in the paintings of Balthus
young girls read books
and play solitaire in sexual positions
they seem unconscious of this
they seem lonely and bored

II La peintre

Painting does not mean
you understand what you see
the more you look at an object the more
unfamiliar it becomes
declaring nothing
isolating what is most significant
a form of prayer

III La chambre

A girl naked on a couch
hair loose on her shoulders
arms and legs open in the window sunlight
the curtain just opened by a younger girl
who has none of her sister’s curves
her face ugly and mannish
the face of the painter actually

and this is art isn’t it or isn’t it
the part of us we put in
ugly though maybe interesting
yet there to reveal
though the motivation to do so
unreadable open to interpretation
jealousy hate desire

IV La leçon de guitare

Was the girl bad stubborn
did she not practice her scales
did she say who cares about guitar anyway
and is the woman teacher angry annoyed
this spoiled girl whose rich parents pay for the lessons
while she earns extra money teaching brats

taking the girl on her lap and grabbing her hair
pushing the skirt up past her navel
all smooth down to white knee socks
the girl not seeming to struggle
except one hand pulling the teacher’s dress open
she looks away refusing to acknowledge anything
not even the hand gripping her thigh
the guitar forgotten on the floor

V Nu au repos

The girl is wearing nothing but a shirt
unbottoned opened lounging in a chair
the shirt a man’s her skin grey almost burnt
a foot crossed underneath the other bare
leg and her body leaning to the right

the room feels almost empty in the light
that filters through the small dirty window
her long dark hair still tucked beneath the soft
white glowing shirt that she has just put on
to keep her warm to rest nude girl at rest

VI L’enfance

If we see sexuality in this rendition of a pensive child, it is our problem. Of the way that the child flashes her bare thighs at an alluring angle and flaunts her underwear-covered labia, that’s how little girls sit. Where obscurity remains, it is the sort that requires submission, not clarification. Little girls are familiar, a universal theme. Additionally, they often dress in interesting ways. His attraction to little girls was no deeper than that. If their knickers show, it is because little girls often sit in a position in which their knickers show, not because he was lusting for them or wanted his viewers to. This error should not be seen as an innocent mistake. It was inspired by the human craving for gossip, the same attractive motive that makes people act as if he has a thing for little girls. There is after all, in the subject matter something that goes beyond mere communication. The subject matter in emotional terms is manifestly a matter of life and death to him. Reality, exactly. My childhood was wonderful. I had a wonderful childhood.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

PunkRockPaperScissors—a review

My review of PunkRockPaperScissors, a collection of old punk/hardcore flyers from the 80s, which is really a historical document. And artistic! Click on Bad Brains to go!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Punta Concepción—short story

"Punta Concepción" appeared in BRIDGE literary magazine (now defunct) way back in 2005.

            He is staring at us on the ferry to Santa Rosalía. Jan doesn’t see him: she is staring at the water, the waves off the bow. She points and says, “Dolphins!”
            He comes over to watch. He stands next to me. There are three dolphins. Sleek, shining in the sun.
            He is next to me, our arms touch. I sigh and say, “Beautiful. Aren’t they beautiful?” Jan turns to me smiling. She sees him. They look at each other.

            It is in class. No, it is before class. I am reading my Mexico travel book. She sits next to me and asks me if I’m going to Mexico. I say I’m thinking about it. She says she’s thinking about it too. She says maybe we could go together.
            I am noticing her now, for the first time. She sits in the back of the class, but today she sits next to me. I am staring at her as the professor talks. She is listening. He face changes when she disagrees. She has strong arms. I can tell she runs.

            He says his name is Johnny. He says he’s driven down from Phoenix. We tell him, Jan tells him, we are backpacking, traveling, exploring. He asks us where we are from. Jan says she’s from California. I say I’m from Tucson, though really I’m from Ohio. I want to be from California. We both go to the University of Arizona in Tucson
            We talk. It is warm here, even in December. I want to see if there’s a point where you can’t see land, where you can’t see Sonora or Baja. But I fall asleep next to Jan on a bench. When I wake up we can see land to the west. I think we’re early, that we’re making good time, but it takes us three more hours to get to port.

            John says he has a truck. He’s going to find a deserted beach and camp out. He asks us if we’d like come, or if he can give us a ride. Jan says yes, then looks at me. She is telling me I should say yes, but she doesn’t have to tell me.
            He is handsome: Tall, thin, long hair and high cheek bones. I like his smile, though he tries not to. He looks at us: I can see him looking. With two women it’s harder for him to pretend he’s not. When he goes to buy us Cokes, Jan elbows me and says, “He’s checking you out, Sheila.” I blush. She says, “It’s ok, I’m not jealous.” She puts her hand on my thigh, she says, “Maybe a little.”

            Out first night in Mexico, in Guaymas, we find a cheap hotel. La dueña is a large friendly woman. She is happy to see us and tells us how pretty we are. She gives us a room with a double bed in the back of the courtyard.
            We are tired and oily from the bus ride. It is dinner-time. We decide to shower and go out to eat. Jan tells me to go first. She sits on the bed looking at our travel book. I hesitate—I’ve never undressed in front of her. I don’t want her to know I’m hesitating. I take off my shirt and jeans. She glances up at me. I go into the bathroom.
            When I come out with a towel wrapped around me, she gets up and undresses. She has a lean runner’s body. I ask her if she lifts weights. She says yes. I tell her she has a nice body. She laughs.

            The ship docks. We wait for John in the parking lot. He has a blue Toyota pick-up, with a white ‘camper shell’. He tells me it’s called a ‘camper shell’.
            We throw our backpacks in back. There are only two seats, so I sit on Jan’s lap. She puts her arms around me, laughing. We pull onto the highway and head south. Johnny says he wants to explore a place, a peninsula where the highway doesn’t go, so there won’t be people with RVs.
            Half-way there, we stop in Mulegé for food. There’s a store that caters to americans and even has cans of refried beans without lard, and fresh vegetables. Johnny is a vegetarian too. Jan buys tequila.

            Jan and I go out for dinner. We walk along the main street of the town. There are more people on the streets here. There are girls and boys, in separate groups, staring and laughing at each other.
            We find a restaurant. After we order food, a man comes to our table. He asks in broken english if we’re american. Jan tells him, in spanish, to go away. Vete. The man is surprised, but he does. He goes to the bar and talks about us to his friends.
            She is stronger than I am. I couldn’t have told him to go away. I would have talked to him. I tell her this and she laughs. She says on another time she might have talked with him. She says maybe she would have gotten a free dinner out of it. But, she says, this is our adventure and she wants to talk with me.
            After dinner we walk along the main street a bit. The boys whistle at us from their cars. We go back to the hotel room.
            I undress. I wear a t-shirt and underwear to bed. Jan comes to bed naked. She says, “I hope you don’t mind.” I say no.
            We lay next to each other. All the rooms of the hotel face into the courtyard. Jan says, “Listen”. We can hear a couple having sex. We can hear the woman. Jan says, “Sounds like she’s having a good time. Maybe when we get to Cabo...” I ask her what she means. She says, “You know, maybe we’ll meet some hot guys.”
            I don’t say anything. I listen to her breathing get softer. Then she moves closer. She says she’d cold. She puts her hand on my hair and tells me goodnight. I say goodnight.

            We head south through hills with cactus and bushes that go right up to the edge of the ocean. There are beaches filled with RVers. There are RVs lined along the shore. Johnny finds the turn-off. We turn left, east. It’s a dirt road. Johnny drives fast and I lean out the window. Jan turns up the mexican music on the radio, with lots of accordian, which we all think is funny.
            The peninsula goes east, then curves north, creating a large bay. The road is rough.
            We drive an hour, exploring. We find our beach. It is late afternoon, the sun is out. Johnny stops the truck and we get out. Jan and I run to the water. She takes off her shirt and stretches. She starts to take off the rest of her clothes. I look back at Johnny walking toward us. He has his shirt off too. Jan smiles at me. She says, “Come on Sheila. Let’s go skinny-dippping!” She runs naked into the water and dives.
            I take off my clothes and run in. I dive.
            The water is cool, almost cold. Refreshing. I swim to Jan. She stands up; the water is waist deep. She pulls her hair away from her face, glistening. She yells at Johnny to come in. We look back at him. He takes off his clothes, down to his underwear. I can see him hesitate, looking at us, looking at him. He takes his underwear off and walks in slowly.
            He swims out to us and we stand together. We laugh about the desert, how it comes right to the water here. We talk about Arizona. Jan dares us to swim out furthur. We follow her till we can’t touch bottom. She lays on her back and drifts. We all do, but I am scared. I swim back and Johnny comes with me.
            We come out on the beach and walk, naked, to the truck. Johnny opens up the back and we get towels. Johnny says he’s glad he can enjoy this with two beautiful women. I say we’re glad we can enjoy this with a beautiful man. I feel stupid, obvious.
            Jan is waiting for us. We lay the towels out and lie down. She tells Johnny he should lie between us, for balance. He is still nervous, not looking at us, trying not to look. I’m not nervous. I stare at both of them. We talk but we are sleepy. Johnny covers his eyes with his rolled up shirt. Jan smiles across him at me and motions her chin down his body, to his cock. She mouths the words: touch it.
            I shake my head. She shrugs, turns over on her stomach.
            I take a short nap. Jan and Johnny are still asleep. I get up and go back into the water. I swim a little ways, lie on my back, drifting like Jan and stare at the sky. I listen to the water. I think, there will always be this.
            I look back at the beach, she has him in her mouth. He says something. She lies on her stomach again. He takes her that way. I watch them do it. I crouch in the water up to my neck and watch them.
            I walk out of the water. Jan says, “Enjoy the show?” She says, “I hope you don’t mind. I needed that.” She says, “I couldn’t wait.”
            The sun is going down. The sky is pink and orange. It cools. We put on our clothes. We put on sweaters and jackets. Johnny sets up his tent. He says it’s small. He lays down blankets and extra sleeping bag.
            Jan and I cut up vegetables and cheese for tacos. Johnny finds some small logs and twigs for a small fire. He puts a can of beans on it to heat them. We take turns on the tequila bottle. The stars come out. We can see the lights from the RVers across the bay.

            Johnny tells us stories. He is a firefighter with the Forest Service. He tells us about fire and about travel, Montana, Alaska. Jan asks if there are women on the firefighting crews. He says yes, some. I wonder what they are like. Jan says she would like to be a fire-fighter.
            We drink half the bottle of tequila. It’s time to sleep. Johnny says Jan and I can sleep in the tent, he’ll sleep in his sleeping bag outside. Jan pouts. She says, “I thought we could all squeeze in together.” Johnny looks at me. I nod.
            Jan and I get in first. Johnny finds more wood for the fire. When he comes into the tent, Jan tells him to get in on the other side of me. I am in the middle.
            It is cold. We cuddle under the two sleeping bags. Jan and Johnny are on their sides. I lie on my back. Jan pushes my shirt up and rubs my stomach. She leans over and kisses Johnny. She tells him to kiss me. He kisses me. She says, “I think Sheila’s been waiting for you to do that all day.” It’s true.
            Johnny pulls down my underwear. He puts my hand around his cock. I look at Jan. She smiles, kisses me. Johnny moves between my legs. I say no, that I want him to do it like he did it to Jan. I turn over. I turn my face to Jan. She lies next to me while he does it. We kiss while he does it.

            We spend the day on the beach. We swim. We read. We talk. We touch each other. Johnny uses his mouth on me. I want to do that to Jan. I taste her. She is salty. Johnny watches us. He says he likes watching us. Then he and I do it again.
            He goes for a walk. Jan and I kiss. We use our hands on each other. I fall asleep on her shoulder.
            We spend another night. We have no more food and water. We talk about getting more and coming back. We decide to go south, to Cabo.

            We are in Cabo. It is mid-afternoon. We are eating at a restaurant. We are talking about what we will do. Jan says she wants to go dancing later. I want to go dancing too. Johnny says no, he doesn’t like to dance. Jan says, “How can you not like dancing?”
            Johnny shrugs. He says he’ll camp out again. He doesn’t like the city. There are lots of rich American tourists. He tells us he’ll meet us tomorrow.
            I say we don’t have to go dancing. He says no, he doesn’t want to spoil our fun. We’ll meet on the beach tomorrow. He kisses both of us. He kisses me first.

            Jan and I find a hotel near the center. We shower and put on fresh clothes. We go out to a bar and drink and dance. Jan is a good dancer. It feels good to dance and watch her dance.
            Some guys start to buy us drinks. We dance some more with them. There is one who likes me and dances with me a lot. I don’t realize how drunk I am until I fall on the dance floor and he catches me. Jan laughs and comes over and kisses me. Which makes the guys yell. It’s silly, but exciting too, so she keeps doing it. Then she takes off her shirt and everyone yells more and we keep dancing.

            They leave the next morning. They laugh quietly and I wake up and wonder why two guys are leaving and wonder where I am and fall back asleep. I wake up late and remember: It’s time to meet Johnny. I get dressed. I tell Jan to wake up. She looks at me. I say I’ll meet her there. She says, “Don’t tell him.” She says, “I knew you liked him.”  She says, “Sheila....”
            I run down to the public beach. There are Americans everywhere. I see Johnny. He’s looking out at the sea. I touch him on his bare shoulder. He turns around. I put my arms around his neck. I kiss him. I say, “Let’s go back.”
            He asks, to our bay, or Arizona?
            I say I don’t care.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Poem for Cat

"Poem for Cat" originally appeared in the lit zine Salonika in New York City, way back in 1999 (as "Poem for Nan")

poem for Cat

you were tall and strong like an amazon.
long runner’s legs
hands rough and calloused.
and your hair, pulling on it when I fucked you

you could out-hike most of the crew
and you looked good covered in ash and dirt.

pool games at the Timberline
you liked your vodka and beer, lots of beer
and me thinking of all those men you chose me.

days and weeks without touching you
listening to the guys talk
r&rs in Chico
poison oak and rubbing lotion into your legs
the woman we shared your roommate

end of fire season, roadtripping back east
desert hot springs at night,
hikes in Utah, Bryce Canyon in the snow
and the fights

and goodbye in Rochester
and goodbye in Chicago
and goodbye in Minneapolis

finally on the phone I asked
and you said yes
the whole summer with him too

I slammed the receiver down
tried to push you out of my life
but you are strong
without even trying
or wanting to try
you stay...

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Maple Key Comics #2

My review of the Maple Key Comics #2, a new "comics magazine anthology" up now at COMICS BULLETIN. Click on weird dudes and birds to go:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ready Or Not—One Act Play

"Ready Or Not", a one act play, was published in Writing On The Edge in 2010, and performed at JCC in 2012. I'm putting it up here, for all to use, under the creative commons concept. Please just give me credit, and if you perform it, let me know! -John

The stage is dark at first. Three bright ‘interrogation-like’ over lights come over each of the of the three key stage positions: FRONT STAGE LEFT, FRONT STAGE RIGHT, and STAGE CENTER

Positioned at FRONT STAGE LEFT is JIN, an early-twenties Korean male. At first he appears confident and not at all self-conscious about his English, though it’s not perfect. He’s wearing typical American college student clothes: jeans and hoodie. He has a backpack filled with folders, papers and books, plus his computer. When he speaks he sometimes pauses, trying to find the right word.

At FRONT STAGE RIGHT is 40ish writing TEACHER. Can be male or female, in either case, stereotypical clothes of a university composition teacher: Glasses for either. Male: Casual slacks (even jeans) but with a dress shirt and tie and brown leather dress shoes. For female, casual but professional, long skirt and dress blouse, with a jacket. Can verge from nerdy to classy in either case.

At CENTER STAGE sits the COMMITTEE: Three people of any gender, in conservative black suits, sitting behind a long table with neatly stacked folders filled with papers, including a spiral bound ‘report’ titled Ready or Not in front of each that they may lift and show for emphasis, though they remain seated and scarily calm, passionless, during the conversation.

During the play, the teacher is the only one who really responds to the others. Jin may listen to questions from the teacher, but never seems to really be paying attention. The committee members ignore the teacher completely, and never look at Jin, even if they respond to something he says. Jin never even seems aware of the committee. The whole ‘dialogue’ should sound fragmented and disjointed.

COM 1:                        The committee helps prepare all young people for post-secondary education, work, and citizenship.

COM 2:                        More than 60 percent of employers question whether a typical student has learned even the basics.

COM 3:                        The committee is a bipartisan, non-profit organization that helps states raise academic standards, improve assessments, and strengthens accountability.

TEACHER:            Who decides the accountability?

JIN:                                    My major is biology so I want to get a degree in USA and get into med school.

COM 2:                        Employers cannot employ people who cannot articulate clearly.

TEACHER:            I can’t guarantee he will speak perfectly when he gets out of my class. But he’ll be better. And he’ll have done some thinking. That’s got to be the most important thing, right?

COM 3:                        Regardless of a student’s major, the ability to formulate and analyze arguments, both orally and in writing, is absolutely essential to academic success.

TEACHER:            Ok, that’s thinking. So we agree on some things. But creative thinking is valuable too, right?

COM 1:                        We can develop these skills at the postsecondary level, but students need to get a solid foundation in these basics when they are in high school, or they will fall behind quickly in college.

JIN:                                    High school, it’s kind of different from USA. We don’t focus on writing that much. That’s kind of bad for me. I don’t even write in Korean that much, then I have to write in English.

COM 1:                        The diploma has lost its value because what it takes to earn one is disconnected from what it takes for graduates to compete successfully beyond high school.

JIN:                                    I didn’t have to write essays in high school. In college, some reports, some papers, but I didn’t take any comp classes. I think they have them but it wasn’t required.

COM 2:                        Students earn grades that cannot be compared from school to school and often are based as much on effort as on the actual mastery of academic content.

TEACHER:            Why is that a bad thing? Who ever masters anything?

COM 3:                        Employers cannot employ people who do not have the ability to read effectively.

JIN:                                    Reading? I feel comfortable. There depends on the subject. I like science so if I read science things, if it’s not really difficult. I’m comfortable. But things like psychology, social science, I don’t like, I’m it’s really hard to read.

COM 1:                        Working to increase the number of students who are proficient without ensuring that they also are prepared for the future will undermine not only the intent of NCLB, but also support for the education system itself.

TEACHER:            Jin, do you read for fun?

JIN:                                    I read comic books, doesn’t matter, English or Korean. But English and Korean comics are different. I understand better in Korean than in English, so it seems easier.

COM 2:                        Practice in providing evidence from literary works to support an interpretation fosters the skill of reading any text slowly and teaches students to think, speak, and write logically—a priority skill identified by employers and postsecondary faculty.

TEACHER:            Only logically?

COM 1:                        Employers cannot employ people who do not have the ability to write effectively.

TEACHER:            Ok, I guess I agree with that....

COM 2:                        Students should be able to organize ideas in writing with a thesis statement in the introduction, well-constructed paragraphs, a conclusion and transition sentences that connect paragraphs into a coherent whole.

COM 3:                        Students should be able to write an academic essay. For example: A summary, an explanation, a description, a literary analysis essay.

COM 1:                        These essays should develop a thesis, create an organizing structure appropriate to purpose, audience and context.

COM 2:                        They should includes relevant information and exclude extraneous information.

COM 3:                        They should make valid inferences.

COM 1:                        They should support judgments with relevant and substantial evidence and well-chosen details.

COM 2:                        And provide a coherent conclusion.

JIN:                                    Writing is painful. Firstover, I don’t know what to write. I have no experience to write. So and secondly, I haven’t write that much in my high school. I haven’t written at lot in Korean. And third one is, I think that’s a language barrier. I know how to say it in Korean but I don’t know how to say it in English.

TEACHER:            We can work on that. The more writing you do, the better you get. I mean, you write in other genres outside of class, right?

JIN:                                    I don’t write outside of college at all. Text messaging, yeah, that kind of thing. Email. I didn’t think that was writing, because writing, this word, is...something sophisticated. It’s simple. And I think there’s a verb, like when you text message, it’s a verb. Writing is...when you email you say emailed him, when you use text message, I say I text messaged him. I just think of that right now. It’s like a conversation, right? The reason why we text message is to communicate....No, writing it communication too...but...I don’t know. I don’t really like text-messaging.

COM 2:                        High-growth, highly skilled jobs demand that employees can communicate essential information effectively via email.

TEACHER:            What was your favorite writing experience?

JIN:                                    My favorite writing experiences?

Jin thinks. The committee members check their watches.

JIN:                                    When I was uh.....I think that’s the question I have to think a lot. Maybe two years ago I attended conversation group and there was a TEOFL class and then I practice writing in that class and I wrote about comparing TOEFL and the U of M, they made this test so if you get this and get above a certain score, you don’t have to take the TEOFL, so I wrote about this...topic, and then I think I wrote well, so this teacher who taught was going to use my essay to let people know that there is a supplement for TEOFL.

COM 1:                        These skills are very difficult to assess on a paper-and-pencil test.

TEACHER:            Exactly!

COM 2:                        Exit exams are necessary parts of the system.

TEACHER:            But you just said—

COM 3:                        Exams ensure that students meet a least a floor of performance, and they can provide more credible and compelling evidence that students have met the standards.

TEACHER:            But he just described a complicated writing process. How do you assess something like that with an exam?

JIN:                                    I’m not a writer. But, I could be a writer. If I, like I said, I have a three reasons I won’t like writing: language barrier, and like that. If I fix them, and experience a lot, then I could be a good writer.

TEACHER:            Do you consider yourself a writer in Korean?

JIN:                                    In Korean? No, I don’t think so. I mean I could be in both if I fixed those. It’s kind of awkward, but my strength in writing is creative. I mean, it’s kind of, strange...but when I get a prompt, like for an essay, I think differently, like maybe that’s a language barrier, or I think differently.

TEACHER:            That’s fine! That’s good!

COM 1:                        Standards and exams reflect a consensus among experts as to what would be desirable for young people to learn.

COM 2:                        They require that course content reflect the knowledge and skills required for success in college and work.

COM 3:                        Unless all students are regularly exposed to a challenging curriculum, they will forever be playing catch-up.

TEACHER:            We all are catching up. That’s never going to change.

JIN:                                    When I write, I go, I just get off the track.

Note: All committee comments are taken from Ready or Not: Creating a High School Diploma That Counts, by the American Diploma Project.