Friday, December 12, 2008

Poetry Friday - Schoolsville

I'm grading this week, or I should say I will be grading, since I'm writing this post (and most of this week's posts) on Sunday afternoon, my lips and tongue still tingling pleasantly from a lunch of beef curry. I don't do schoolwork on Sundays, and it's lovely to have a guilt-free afternoon, even though I have large stacks of papers in the corner of the room.

Thinking of school and students leads to this poem by Billy Collins. I love his imagination, and I think I, too, have by now taught enough students to populate a small town. Or at least a village.


by Billy Collins

Glancing over my shoulder at the past,
I realize the number of students I have taught
is enough to populate a small town.

I can see it nestled in a paper landscape,
chalk dust flurrying down in winter,
nights dark as a blackboard.

The population ages but never graduates.
On hot afternoons they sweat the final in the park
and when it's cold they shiver around stoves
reading disorganized essays out loud.
A bell rings on the hour and everybody zigzags
into the streets with their books.

I forgot all their last names first and their
first names last in alphabetical order.
But the boy who always had his hand up
is an alderman and owns the haberdashery.
The girl who signed her papers in lipstick
leans against the drugstore, smoking,
brushing her hair like a machine.

Their grades are sewn into their clothes
like references to Hawthorne.
The A's stroll along with other A's.
The D's honk whenever they pass another D.

Here's the rest of the poem.

And here's today's Poetry Friday roundup.


Anonymous said...

I've never read this poem, but as usual it's perfect. I like the last stanza best. Once a teacher, always a teacher!

Kelly Polark said...

Great poem. I'm a former teacher myself...

Brianna Caplan Sayres said...

Oh wow! What an incredible poem! Thank you so much for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Gosh, I always love Billy Collins's Poems!

Anonymous said...

I love this line:

I forgot all their last names first and their
first names last in alphabetical order.