My Dad read me poetry. Until recently I did not know why. Mom hates it. Surprising isn't it given her love of words and books and all things curious.
I think the English Teachers of the world are partly to blame. I ran across this poem a couple of months ago. It made me laugh and made me a bit sad. Words are such a gift and in many ways they can be limiting. But they are to be enjoyed.
This is the apology to all the students I asked to tell me what someone said. I should have been a better hungrier listener.
Poets have a lot to say, they only use fewer words.
Would anyone care to join me
in flicking a few pebbles in the direction
of teachers who are fond of asking the question:
“What is the poet trying to say?”
as if Thomas Hardy and Emily Dickinson
had struggled but ultimately failed in their efforts-
inarticulate wretches that they were,
biting their pens and staring out the window for a clue.
Yes, it seems that Whitman, Amy Lowell
and the rest could only try and fail,
but we in Mrs. Parker’s third-period English Class
here at Springfield High will succeed
with the help of those study questions
in saying what the poor poet could not,
and we will get all this done before
that orgy of egg salad and tuna fish known as lunch.
Tonight, however, I am the one trying
to say what it is this absence means,
the two of us sleeping and waking under different roofs,
the image of this vase of cut flowers,
not from our garden, is no help.
And the same goes for the single plate,
the solitary lamp, and the weather that presses its face
against these new windows-the drizzle and the
So I will leave it up to Mrs. Parker,
who is tapping a piece of chalk against the blackboard,
and her students-a few with their hands up,
others slouching with their caps on backwards-
to figure out what it is I am trying to say
about this place where I find myself
and to do it before the noon bell rings
and that whirlwind of meatloaf is unleashed.
Random House 2008