possibilities / credit: de
Thank you to my high school English teacher, Mrs. Weir,
For introducing me to literature. I remember reading
The Catcher in the Rye during junior year of high school,
And hearing Holden speak in an everyday manner,
And it spoke to me, along with his rebellious spirit,
Angsty teenager that I was. But it wasn’t just Salinger’s
Genius that led me to literature. It was the way Mrs. Weir
Talked about writing and art; writing was something of dignity,
And sophistication. I saw videos of Camus in black-and-white
In a beret and thought, that could be me. I could write like that.
I could stand like that. I could look away from the camera, just like that.
I remember the last day of school, senior year, going to Mrs. Weir’s
Class for one last time, for her to sign my yearbook. She wrote that
I could be anything I wanted: a lawyer, writer, a teacher. Anything.
I remember crying that night, because I didn’t know if I would ever see her
Again. Thank you, Mrs. Weir, for changing my life. Thank you for teaching
Me to love literature, and, more importantly, life.
The Mountain Man
A man drove his truck away from his suburban hometown. He wanted to see the mountains. He drove for two hours. It was snowing on the road. He’d lent his snow tire chains to his friend the week before, so he stopped his car when it got too icy. He got out and started skiing. Luckily, he’d brought his skis. He climbed the mountain on his skis. It wasn’t even that difficult for him. He was a natural. When he got to the top of the mountain, he shouted: “Hooray! I have climbed the mountain of fear! I have defeated the mountain and all her might!”
Then he started to build a fire. He roasted some chicken and vegetables. When he finished eating, he started to write a letter to his 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Cranford. The letter began: Dear Mrs. Cranford, Thank you for all your kindness and support. You taught me so much. Maybe the most important lesson being that of respect for others. I am forever grateful for your guidance. Sincerely, The Mountain Man. He put the letter in his pocket and started heading back home. He made it home and went to bed. The next day he sent the letter to his teacher, along with a copy of his celebrated Business Relationships of photography. The photos in the book were black-and-white shots of Downtown Los Angeles. He signed the book: Respectfully, your student, The Mountain Man.
Thank you for being so supportive during my senior year
Of high school. I remember how you used to staple my
Short stories to the wall; I consider it my first publications.
Thank you for believing in me and encouraging me to write.
It was a pleasure everyday going to your class: learning while
Having a great time. I remember wanting to impress you
With my stories; are they good enough to be published?
They weren’t, but it was nice of you to say they were.
Thank you for being a positive influence at a time when a lot
Of negativity surrounded me. A simple smile can go a long way
In a troubled young man’s life; respectfully, your student.
About Jose Hernandez Diaz
Jose Hernandez Diaz is a 2017 NEA Poetry Fellow. His work appears in The American Poetry Review, Bennington Review, Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, Huizache, Iowa Review, The Nation, Poet Lore, Poetry, The Progressive, Witness, and in the Best American Nonrequired Reading 2011. His chapbook of prose poems, The Fire Eater, is forthcoming in Spring 2020 with Texas Review Press. He tweets at @JoseHernandezDz.