The Work of the Teachers (lyrics)

(words by Mark Zucker, to the tune “The Work of the Weavers”)

Now teaching is a trade

That never should be lost

Unless you’re unafraid of ignorance’s cost

The future’s being made

The past is being tossed

To learn from our mistakes we need the teachers

If it wasn’t for the teachers

What would you do

You wouldn’t attain the reasoning to drive at what is true

You wouldn’t gain perspective on another point of view

If it wasn’t for the work of the teachers

There’s folks that serve the rich

And there’s folks that serve the poor

And folks that serve themselves and never see who’s at the door

But betwixt those in the ditch

And the ones with wealth galore

The folks who tried to help them were the teachers

If it wasn’t for the teachers

What would you do

You wouldn’t attain the reasoning to drive at what is true

You wouldn’t gain perspective on another point of view

If it wasn’t for the work of the teachers

Businessmen they mock us

And count us out as fools

And plus they see the profit they could make out of our schools

But they’ve no right to knock us

Though they make all the rules

They cannot make a dime without the teachers

If it wasn’t for the teachers

What would you do

You wouldn’t attain the reasoning to drive at what is true

You wouldn’t gain perspective on another point of view

If it wasn’t for the work of the teachers

Some folks claim such autonomy

They say our time has passed

They glance at the inequity, blame us, and act aghast

But look at the economy

Whose crimes are far more vast

And they would be so much worse without the teachers

If it wasn’t for the teachers

What would you do

You wouldn’t attain the reasoning to drive at what is true

You wouldn’t gain perspective on another point of view

If it wasn’t for the work of the teachers

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Again (song lyrics)

I can’t believe it’s happening again

Lost another part of me again

Something inside’s loosening again

Set adrift upon the sea again

Again

Again

Again

Again

I can’t stop this from happening again

Here I am upon my knees again

This doesn’t only happen to them

This will keep on happening again

Again

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That’s the Way (song lyrics)

You thought it looked cool

So you bought it like a fool

Left to fight a futile duel

‘Bout which o’ you’s the tool

Cuz it started freaky fun,

But that sure was quickly done

And all too soon you’s on the run

Livin’ underneath a gun

I’m telling you, that’s the way that drugs work

It looked hard at first,

But then it certainly turned to worse

I knew it surely was a curse

A ticking bomb burst in your purse

Married to a pain reliever

Nothing but a plain deceiver

But she knows I’ll never leave her

She controls her trained retriever

I’m telling you, that’s the way that drugs work

You said sleep was for the dead

Living too deep off your head

Now you’re creeping into bed

Not to wake the one you wed

Force-closing all your eyes

Till it’s safe at last to rise

And time to re-chemical-ize

Just to animate your lies

I tell you that’s the way that drugs work

You know you just get tired

Of the skin on your hide

And all this itchin’ inside

Makes you wish you’d just died

Cuz there’s a horn in your rough

You know you’re trying to slough it off

With something deeper than just a cough

Got just the thing to scuff it off

I’m telling you, that’s the way that drugs work

Nothing doing but to do it

I’s just riveted by my ruin

Got just the perfect fitted bit

To drill the barbed-wire screw in

Oh forget it, doesn’t matter

Take a gun and make it splatter

Toss one off mad as a hatter

Just to feel the shit shatter

I’m telling you, that’s the way that drugs work

Hard to tell what was pretended,

Took so little to get offended

An excuse to get distended

By something off-hand unintended

Acting bruised like a brat

With some thing to lash out at

But in lieu of a bat

Do a little bit o’ dat

I’m telling you, that’s the way that drugs work

Man, you’re so sly

The way you slip a little lie

Just to set an alibi

For some sooner or later time

I told the truth a little bit

Shouldn’t I get a little credit

I’m getting better gotta admit it

Someday I just might get it

So won’t you cut me a little slack

Why won’t you take my loving back

I can’t understand

Why you treat me like that

I tell you, that’s the way that drugs work

And then again you shuffle in

With a shrug and a grin

And your shirt below the bend

Where you hurt yourself again

Don’t care who you’re affectin’

Much less who you’re infectin’

As long as you’re connectin’

Don’t need no correctin’

Don’t fear no inspection

Of the lies you’re protectin’

Cuz ” Nobody’s suspectin’

I pulled it off to perfection”

I’m telling you, that’s the way that drugs work

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Speech from Eric Zucker’s Memorial (speech)

Mark Zucker’s speech from the memorial:

As everyone knows, Eric Zucker was larger than life. He was a great man, a phenomenal friend, a beautiful brother, a devoted son, a loving husband, and a doting father. But what I want to say, lest we forget, is that Eric was a clown and a scalawag; he made a spectacle of himself; he had absolutely no sense of boundaries. He wore his heart on his sleeve, on both sleeves, it poured out of him, and it got all over everyone. And we’ll never get it off, thank goodness.

He was a rascal. When I was learning to speak, he’d point at a fork and say “cat”, my first koan, and I learned something: you couldn’t always believe every word Eric said; but you always felt the essential truths and love that underlay his tall tales. Except that time I gave a report in school on the dinosaurs that still exist right over that hill; when challenged, I swore up and down I’d gotten it from an absolute authority, my brother. Or those two years he swore repeatedly that he stayed up every night until I was asleep, before climbing out the window to be a secret agent with the Mod Squad. He got me every time.

Eric was a rapscallion and a raconteur. I’d hear other people retelling “stories” from our childhood. Stories. Doozies. Complete fabrications! Myths! Yes, Eric mythologized the world, and thereby gave meaning to the world. He stretched the truth in the service of higher truths. Virtually everything I believe, value, and treasure, and the lion’s share of all the literature and music and art I love was filtered through Eric’s myth-making. And those most crucial of myths that our parents raised us on, of compassion, truth, beauty, justice, and love, were made real in his life through his committed actions, and he made them accessible to us all with his humor. He showed me how to live and laugh as a committed Marxist; Karl and Groucho, of course.

Eric was larger than life, and he had a peculiar genius for people. Every time I used to visit him, he’d be having a huge party. I didn’t get it at the time. I just wanted some intimate time with my brother, but later I realized, those people were 60 of Eric’s most intimate friends, and he felt it essential to introduce me to each of them with a heroic flourish that was frankly embarrassing. Eric’s inner circle basically encompassed the entire universe, and each lucky member was rendered a virtual superhuman glowing with the myths he spun.

Eric made himself scandalously at home in other people’s personal space. Eric had no shame. The way he danced with other people’s wives made me blush. He had no sense of boundaries. He played the fool, but in the classic sense; to unmask the foolishness of the conventional life, and to urge us to live more fully, to share love more freely, to work at our convictions more earnestly, and to make us laugh and let down our guard, to feel the love and joy of human connection, so we could then commit anew, refreshed to do the serious work of life.

Eric was a wanton idealist. Listen carefully, children: First, you can change the world and you must. Second, you can make love and you must. Third, you can appreciate and create beauty, and you must. Standing on the shoulders of our forebears, Eric transmitted these essential truths to me, and he was the living, breathing embodiment of them.

Eric was my touchstone. We always shared a bedroom, and I often used to climb into his bed at night and tell him about my bad dreams when I was a kid. Once, years later, far away, I dreamt that a chicken I was cooking attacked me, so I wrenched it off my neck and stabbed it with a fork, right through the chicken, right through the palm of my hand. When I woke up, all alone in a cabin in a New Hampshire forest, I walked a mile to a phone to tell Eric. He’d understand. Well, now there’s no one to tell. There’s no one to get our jokes. Eric, you knew what no one knew, about us, Max and Betty, our family, where we come from, how our dog Molly sat on our feet around the dinner table while we heard the stories that made us what we are. Now it’s only me, but like you screamed to me through the phone years ago we are ‘blood brothers in a stormy night with a vow to defend’, and I vow, big brother, best brother ever, I’ll keep our stories alive, because they make life worth living, and I’ll keep doing the good work in life, inspired by the way I watched you make the world a better place. Our parents raised us right, and they would have been so proud…

Eric, you never did have any sense of boundaries, and you still don’t. You were and you are larger than life. Even death cannot stop your ripple from spreading. May it become a wave to transform the world.

Mark Zucker

4/12/08

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Just Stop (monologue)

(grieving father enters room to see two sons reading the newspaper)

What are you doing?.. What on earth do you think you’re doing?. Talking, smiling, reading the funny papers as if nothing has changed……How dare you? Have you forgotten? What’s the matter with you? Have you no humanity? No feelings? Are you just all dead inside? Don’t you remember what has happened to this family? You don’t care…… You’re just waiting for the next party as if nothing has happened, sitting there, reading inanities and giggling like the senseless, silly clowns you are…….Your mother is dead! Doesn’t that mean anything to you? Oh, life is just supposed to go on, like nothing has happened, because for you, nothing has…she was only your mother!.. She only birthed you and nursed you and lived and breathed her every moment to make your life possible and you’ve got nothing to do but sit there and plan your next party! Life must go on, life must go on, yes, yes, for the unfeeling, for those only interested in themselves and their tiny little lives and their idiotic bourgeois concerns!…. Have you called anyone today? Have you made any plans? Well, you’d better, and quick, before you’re forced by what’s left of your conscience to consider what has happened here!…. She was alive and laughing with us, always laughing, making light of the infinite slights you unfeeling bastards heaped upon her day after day, “They’ll grow, they’ll see”,  but you see nothing, you’re blinded by your own vanity, your giddy, silly little lives, your fancy little friends, the thousands of damning deceits that enclose you and leave you immune, inured, desensitized, dead to the reality of what’s going on…..She’s not the dead…..you are the dead ones! You are the ones who have left me alone, abandoned me, destitute and helpless, and now you have the nerve to sit there and patronize me with your eyes, your unfeeling, dead eyes that will not see what has happened…..Well, I won’t stand for it. I’m made of something better than that. I know what has happened, I know life can not and will not go on without her, not for me anyway, because I know that she was a person of value, of depth and wisdom that you cannot imagine. I can’t expect you to understand the beauty and meaning she brought into this house, the smiles and laughter that will never return, smiles of compassion and understanding, not the cold, callous cackling of you petty, ungrateful warts….. Oh, I know, you’re already planning to walk out of this house and leave all this behind! What a relief it will be to be free from caring, free from feelings, free from all connection to the past, striding forward with a shrug, ever onward into the future, without a thought for those who bore you.. And I’m boring you now…. There’s a joke for you;….. the only thing you children can understand….. Children!…. You are not her children…. Her children would understand what has happened here and show respect, instead of driving nails into the heart of her memory with your careless, thoughtless, flippant behavior!…. As if life could go on!…. Or should!… It should not!…. It has not!…. It will not!… Not for me anyway…..And while you are under my roof, I  beg of you, to scrape together an iota of feelings for the woman you owe your lives to, and just stop.

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Sir, Nothing to Report, Sir (poem)

I was determined

To strive for fulfillment

Of my mission

with unredoubtable

sincerity and

fortitude

 

My efforts

could only be regarded

as utterly diligent

yet they proved

to be truly

ultimately

futile

 

Despite

my resolve

I was unable

finally

to grasp the gold ring

so to speak

that we desired

 

It cannot be said

that our endeavor

was ill-intentioned

or simply

utterly misguided

engaged in

as it was

with probity and

purity

of purpose

 

Nonetheless

however

in fact

events have transpired

which have rendered

all the intelligence gathered

insignificant

 

The various peoples of my acquaintance

were

I feel

essential to the pursuit

of our mission

and I feel none the less so

even given the final

fruitless

outcome

of this project

 

Indeed

in pursuit of

precious intelligence

I may have seemed

to some reckless

but I can assure you

and all I have encountered will attest

that I did not let the

ultimate goal of our undertaking force me

to treat others with

inhumanity

 

In truth

I am left

perhaps most distraught

not by the futility of our mission

but that the very nature of our mission

prevents me from continuing our acquaintance

thus I shall never have the opportunity

to find the language

to express the truth

and rejoice together to realize

the commonality

of our mission

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Brothers (story)

Mornings were the hardest time. He lay in bed far too long and that made it worse. Usually he forced himself to bound out of bed upon first awakening to avoid the dreadful malingering; otherwise, his dreams would hover over him interminably.

This morning, unfortunately, he could find nothing to get up for. Actually, he had gotten up to go to the bathroom, but had failed to take advantage of the opportunity to arise permanently, a tactical error for which he knew he would pay dearly. The effort had made the sweat run down his face. It had to be 100 degrees in his little sixth floor walk-up, and the fan he kept on incessantly did little more than swirl the sweltering air around. He couldn’t keep himself from pacing in the heat except when he slept or pretended to, so he forced himself to lie as still as possible, trying futilely to become oblivious to his wretched, drenched condition.

He was uselessly torturing himself and he knew it, but still he could find no reason to get up. He had a sheet strewn across his midsection, as was his habit. It certainly wasn’t for modesty’s sake, but rather simply to have something to hold on to and separate his sticky legs. As he spread it over himself with a wave of his hands, his cat dashed under the billowing sheet to crouch beneath it. The cat would often lie there for minutes at a time, and sometimes the lump under the sheet would move slowly. This time the cat just lay there, motionless, a few feet from his spread legs.

There was nothing to greet him this morning but the heat. He had come to expect that. But without work, and with him leaving town soon, absolutely nothing was compelling him to rise today. To pass the time, he tried to pull together the vague fragments of images lingering in his head from the night’s dreams. He was disappointed not to be able to trace a clearer picture in his mind and it stirred a quiet longing in him. He rolled his head to the side without moving his body in the slightest and shut his eyes.

He had been at a party at his parents’ house. It was very crowded, like it had been after their funeral, but people seemed to be in fine spirits. He consciously tried to avoid everyone he saw, all these people he’d known forever, people he’d played with as a child. He realized that he was supposed to know these people, but he was unable to draw their personal histories to mind. He knew he had shared things with these people, but now he just wanted to avoid them. He had some pressing things that he wanted to talk out with his brother, who he sensed was somewhere in the crowd. So, he excused himself repeatedly and walked sideways through the people lining those old familiar hallways and walls and floors. People seemed to be thrusting out toward him from every corner and he resented their insistent presence while feeling guilty for not acknowledging them. It would take a lot of effort to confront any one of these people and not one of them had what he needed to find. He had to find his brother. He had something to say to him.

He continued shrugging off the relentless series of faces being shoved at him like postcards from alien lands. Finally, from out of this tangle of unsatisfying images rose his brother’s face like a moon over a swamp. His face beamed forth and he was bathed in its warm yellow glow. His brother was busily entertaining a rapt group of female friends in his usual charming fashion. His brother stood above a pack of happy faces, as their upstretched eyes and champagne glasses twinkled.

He was proud of his brother and didn’t want to disturb his warm fun, but he finally managed to gently grasp his attention for a moment. As his brother drew near, he quietly said, ” I just wanted to say that you are….” But before he could finish, his brother’s attention was forcibly grabbed by the question of some gleeful party guest. The brothers turned to each and their eyes met with a sparkle of understanding and love. His brother had to be the gracious party host right now, but they would talk later.

He wandered away, as waves of party noise chirped and lapped all around him. None of the shouts and guffaws could enter his attention, as his heart and mind were wrapped in the warm yellow robe of light that his brother’s gaze had shed on him. He felt like Moses as he stepped briskly through the parting crowd, serenely oblivious to the vaguely familiar faces that lit up in surges as he passed. He felt choked up as came into his parents’ former living room, on those old floors and between those old walls and under that roof. He couldn’t talk to his parents anymore, but he would definitely talk to his brother later.

He was awakened from his reverie with a start. The cat, which had been a motionless lump under the sheets, suddenly attacked his knee, comically playing out some obscure instinctual behavior. He was first shocked and then dismayed to awaken, as ever, but he soon found himself smiling despite himself to recognize the cat’s familiar game. He repositioned his body to lie more directly in the path of the wan wind made by the fan. He was soaking wet.

The oppressive heat and his aggressive recollection of his dreams weighed upon him. He leapt up in irritation and immediately began pacing the tiny room. He would have to wait to find out about those job applications he’d sent out, but he was leaving town regardless and his bags were already packed. His brother was 3,000 miles away, phone rates were highest now and he didn’t want to speak to any other living soul. He shuddered to feel the waves of recollection roll over him, each with an image and an emotion subtly unique, almost unbearably clear and strong, and yet so unsatisfying. Soon all those faces would be so far from him and quite out of reach, except in dreams; already he felt the distance growing between himself and them.

Force of habit urged him to check the ice box, where he found a half-cooked breast of chicken. He mechanically grabbed it and tossed it into his perpetually greased pan on the stove and cranked the gas up to high. There was nothing to do but stare into the rapidly heating pan as the layer of grease liquefied and began to spit. He thought of Sunday brunches with his brother, back when their parents were alive. He thought of recipes he wanted to cook for someone someday. He thought of his last girlfriend. He saw the light, smooth, goose-pimply flesh of the chicken spattering noisily and it looked small in the largely empty black pan. Juice began running, boiling and crackling on the edges of the pale meat, mingling with blood. He pushed it down flat on the black pan and it gave back a louder, angry spattering sound. He squinted at the pan’s sizzling surface and wondered if it would ruin the pan to cook something on only a part of it. It was black to begin with so he couldn’t tell if it was burning. His mother had said that a good old pan needs no greasing because it’s been rendered permanently. He winced to think of her, swallowed hard and felt his own sweaty, sticky flesh where his armpits rubbed. He would have to find something else to think about or do after this chicken was done.

He took the fork and pushed down on the pale yellow breast. It spat back with ear-splitting sharpness. The way it spread out on the pan when he pressed made it sort of feel as if he were frying a frog. He watched intently, preparing to flip the breast, as he squeezed out a little juice, which boiled and spat and mingled with blood around a tip of exposed bone.

With startling quickness, the chicken leapt out of the pan and flew ferociously at his neck. Instinctively, he grabbed his attacker with both hands, one of which still held the fork as he wrenched the beast off his neck where it had savagely flung itself. Then he held the chicken breast in one hand with an iron grip, while it struggled mightily to free itself, and without a moment’s hesitation he thrust the fork directly through the heart at the center of the breast. His weapon plunged through, encountering no resistance from bones, and pierced clean through the chicken breast and into his own hand. He let out a momentary howl and then, shocked by the sound of his own voice, grimly clamped his mouth shut and bore the pain in silence as the wound gushed blood. He had succeeded in stabbing and stopping the beast; now he just wanted to clean up the mess and get on with his day.

Sweat mingled with his blood and made his injured palm sting ever more sharply, which cause him to momentarily consider going to the hospital. However, after cleaning and bandaging his wound, he found it quite easy to chalk up the injury as insignificant. It was just a little cut that wasn’t worth telling anybody about. No one but his brother would understand or care, so he might just as well get on with his life. “To hell with it”, he said out loud, enjoying the sound of his voice, “I’ll just go out to breakfast this morning.” He couldn’t waste any more time pacing the floor in this heat. As he locked his door and began skipping down the stairs, bouncing his bandaged hand along the banister, he couldn’t keep a smile from creeping across his face. He’d definitely tell his brother about this one and they’d share a laugh over it.

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