Dear Mr. Mali,
Where do I begin? A simple Thank You seems inadequate. Last night was all (and more, really) we had hoped it would be. I am so proud of the students and your performance was the cherry on top. Last night Torrance High had it's cake and got to eat it too.
After having had the blessed luxury of spending time with you--a ride to the hotel from the airport, lunch at Wahoo's Fish Tacos, an afternoon in a workshop, a shopping trip to the Gap, dinner in a classroom, and an evening sitting next to you as a judge--my respect and admiration for both your body of work and the person you are has only grown. Taylor (can I call you that now, or am I a fool to think this?) you have that it quality folks always speak of. Being around you is like being around a magnetic force field. I cannot help myself from being drawn in.
I will confess that I'm jealous of the circle you call your friends and can only imagine what it would be like to be able to pick up the phone, dial your number and say, "Hey Taylor, guess what..." Just any old conversation with Taylor Mali. And yes, I will also confess that I desperately wanted to shove my own writing under your nose, but I thought better of using your time for my own selfish gain. I guess it's just the natural tendency of being a writer and then having such a trusted and revered writer so close at hand.
I hope I was able to keep my awe in check, although I have a feeling that at times I probably came across as a star-struck teenager. Sorry. But you see, words are me. That is what I live for as an English teacher and really what sits at the axis of my soul. I have the heart of an athlete (lets give it up for the goalkeeper poets!), but the soul of a poet. What you represent is what I strive for each day that I'm in a classroom with my students. The fact that you were a teacher just exponentially makes it all that much more tangible and delicious.
I know that I/we and those involved with Torrance High will be just a small blip in the Mali solar system, but for us and especially for me, you were a planet larger than life. A star that a million years from this day will still be burning bright. I'd like to think I left a small impression on you, but I can only imagine that all the me-s who have hosted you wish for this very same thing.
I hope that in my adventure as a teacher on the East Coast, I will have the opportunity to bring you to my new school. Once I get approval, or am allowed, or just decide to rebel and do my thing (which is usually what ends up happening as patience and protocol don't suit me well), I will work my poetry revolution. I am not a teacher because of you; that journey started long before. But I continue to teach with your spirit at my back and energy at my heels.
And someday you'll be there again.
And perhaps when I pick you up
from your flight, you will remember the points
I earned for being a goalkeeper,
and ignore the ones I lost on Monty Python.
And you'll remember our trip to the Gap,
and the sushi between your legs.
And you'll be there.
And you'll remember.
And maybe, just maybe
I could call you my friend.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.