I started my workshop with the Economics, Leadership & Governance masters class at Universidad de Navarra with a premise: every morning starts as a negotiation between your present self and your future self (the past is just a reference point). 

I was in the strange place of walking the line between my poet-self and my professional-self: asked to speak about my experiences that led to the current place in my career as a corporate lawyer specializing in sustainability, I chose to use poetry to frame the discussion. 

It was a negotiations class so we negotiated where the discussion would go. It was up to each party to make the most of our time together. I gave them a packet of poems and asked them to prepare one to read. My plan was that the poems would prompt a discussion about my life experiences, taken out of order, but with a thread woven through the stories. We started with a meditative poem, Lost by David Wagoner. I told a story about getting lost on purpose only to find my way back to purpose.

Next, a student read one of my poems from my homepage (not on the reading list). I almost didn’t recognize the title. She read this long poem beautifully and we launched into a full-on Q&A discussion without any more poems to prompt us. We covered everything I had loosely planned and more. I was engaged and I believe the 20 students were too. 

Sixteen of us went to lunch on campus and carried the conversation on for 2 hours or so. Later that night, James, our professor-host joined us for pintxos and a glass of wine (after stopping for the famous Garroticos at Beatriz). 

Here are some things the students took away from our negotiated conversation:

  • We shouldn’t worry about things we can’t control.
  • Faith in yourself is the key for achieving anything.
  • Embrace the unknown…you never know what the world has in store for you.
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • Words have no form until you put it into a form. Like water in a vase. The form in which you communicate your words is crucial for how it will be received. Think about WHAT you want to communicate and HOW to convey this message the best.
  • Don’t wait for the perfect moment, take the moments as they come.
  • Plant yourself where you are today, and from that, move forward.
  • You will never know if you are doing it right, you just do it…be happy with it or change your path.

What Do I Want: A Tourist in Madrid y Pamplona

for James’ masters class 9.2.24

at this hour, a coffee is hard to come by—scroll headlines, find a little table outside

[sunrays tickle the horses’ bellies atop the Ministerio de Agricultura & Atocha]

centuries of people left their creations here: murals, relics, silver & gold tabernacles 

[where is the wilderness to wander in—lost?] 

layers of sedimentary invasions with black seams, perhaps ashes of torched conversions

[where do the locals get away to come back?]

Picasso, Miró, St. Ferme, soldier St. Ignatius, Saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer y Albás

[students whisper stories like film reels playing across their irises]

San Sebastian carnival, processions, sardine burials, flowers, candles, the Pieta played live

[is it faith that flames the passion, the dance, the carnival?]

second graders follow docents like rats to the pied piper, sit down in front of Guernica

[cherubs with jaws dropped, still and silent]

it is siesta now—nothing for the tourist to eat—no paella (arroz caldoso), no pintxos

[let your ears gulp the collective exhaust of daylight sleep

swish of polyester-blend brands and no-name-hand-me-downs shoulder-to-shoulder

[percussion below the chatter of words unrecognized]

8 year-olds pour out of school doors like beetles or crabs migrating over highways

[exoskeletons & pincers on pavement clicking]

like freshly hatched sea turtles rushing in urgent crowds to the shore and to home

[the packs dissolve as each child-molecule pairs up with a grown-up]

a new tone of chatter rises, each a soloist in a larger chorus of the day’s stories

[what happened at school, at home, at the office, garage, factory?]

where is the wilderness where these children escape the throng on weekends?

[another student swipes photos of a 3 hour hike he plans 20 minutes from here]

the father (or younger grandpa?) with a cane (hip replacement?) leans in to hear

[don’t all the parents walk this way—stooped in listening?]

they exchange stories in a fast repartee & the tourist only catches the melody 

until the boy pauses before the end punctuation that says everything: lo quiero!