Category Archives: Teaching

“The Key Is Coded Red”

…just a little nostalgia… In my mind’s eye, occasionally, I travel back to the last school in which I taught for so many years…my old room, Room 461…and…used my key―coded red―to take a look…. The room belongs to someone else now, but the class…they are still who they were when I left them…and I’m exactly who I was when the time came to leave the lion’s den for the last time;  something about alergies and cats….


“The Key Is Coded Red”

The key is coded red, the lock submits,
The door is opened with the slightest turn;
And while the keys are dangling, a lightning burn
On fingers where the knuckle hits
The doorjamb, there because the knob’s
Still too close to the frame and nicks’re
Inevitable once a week. Nothing’s changed. The flicker
Of morning lights―in winter, more like blobs
Of dawn―to make the classroom bright, and there they are!
The chairs atop the desks to aid the man
Who sweeps at night and empties all the cans:
Now I set me down to teach with last night’s marks,
And there and then, and once again I think it’s time I looked
For something more in this than merely facing lions armed with books.

“Close the Books” [On the anniversary of my last day of classes in 2007]

“Close the Books”
[On the anniversary of my last day of classes in 2007]

Close the books, put away the notes,
The shipyard’s abandoned; desks and chairs have lost their rows
(The final cleaning crew arrives tonight!) and do you suppose
The office will be closed before the votes
Are in? Inevitable closing calamities. But by the clock
He sees the hours shifting toward the back
Of what was his room these many years; no lack
Of tomes and final papers, calculations, ever marking; the dry dock’s
There and oddly placed, order impertinent, his ship’s put in to port
And not a scintilla too soon, the wetted finger held aloft with storms
Approaching and heat stroke looming in the warmer
June-filled many-papered halls of what’s left in halls of lockers. Sort
The last class’s fillings, his room no longer root canals in light
And lighter proverbs of an erstwhile life; the tunnel’s end: his silent night.

“The Choice Is Yours”

“The Choice Is Yours”

“The choice is yours, of course. What can I say?
You ask too much, the time is short, delay
Here profits no one. And if you gain you may
Be sure that in that gain you lose your innocence but once, and stray
Not quite so happily as presently you do without a thought to where.
I am no teacher as I claim the equal station of the friend,
Because it is certain that truths imparted surely will offend and send
You from me should you hear my words. Beware; take care.
Gains supplying mastery imply a parting in the ways. “But why?”
Said I, and he continued, “Nothing gained from me
Can serve your heart while I am with you, since to be
As I am you must be prepared to see with eyes
That are not yours but mine; your actions, then, cannot guarantee
A timeless innocence every bent and compromised
and inevitable rebellion brought to light to bury me.”

…a wise teacher once told me that it is impossible to be a teacher and a friend at the same time;  teachers instruct while friends never criticise one another.  I heard this years ago and have found that the statement has stood the test of time…

“They’ll Not Long Remember”

“They’ll Not Long Remember”

They’ll not long remember what I taught,
The wrong denied or calcified forgetfulness of what it meant
To know me. What was it then that never happened, what natural scents
Of some exchange or least intended subtle gestures sought
Assuaged a need in merely asking questions and receiving
Nothing in return where nothing much was said and no one yet
Suspected values or the price of precious seconds? What mattered set
Itself against the background of a potpourri of lies and phatic dialogue achieving
Benchmarks in absurdity in the classroom, yes,
but far beneath the need for scrutiny
To whom it never did concern. There is a personal indifference
In these shifts of fantasies of childhood, perfect foils to conscious interference
Spliced with tokens spoken once and then again–malicious unintended mutiny
In the end–a welcome respite from a single thought that was sustained in time.
The memory’s minutes neuter joys of every passing day
with nothing left to rhyme.