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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Teacher
(With Apologies to Wallace Stevens’ Blackbird)
 
I
Among twenty nervous students,
The only moving thing
Was the mouth of the teacher.
 
II
I was of three minds,
Like a student
In a room with three teachers.
 
III
The teacher whirled with his chalk in hand.
He dashed off huge assignments on the board.
 
IV
A chalk and a blackboard
Are dull.
A chalk and a blackboard and a teacher
Are dull.
 
V
I do not know which to prefer,
The beauty of insipidness
Or the beauty of inanities,
The teacher teaching
Or just after.
 
VI
Exams filled our whole classroom
With trepidation.
The shadow of the teacher
Passed us, back and forth.
How crude
Calling our teeny brains
An indecipherable cause.
 
VII
O wise man who’s had it,
Why do you imagine we are bright?
Do you not see how you teachers
Expect far too much
From the students around you?
 
VIII
I know little today
And tomorrow, much less than yesterday;
But I know, too,
That the teacher wants to know
Just what I know.
 
IX
When the teacher left the classroom,
It marked the time
We jumped up and had some fun.
 
X
At the sight of teachers
Begging for their paychecks,
Even the dullest of students
Would cackle with glee.
 
XI
He strode over the whole classroom
In a fevered state.
Nonce, this fear shook him,
In that he beheld
A vision of us ending up
As teachers.
 
XII
The clock is moving.
The teacher must be finished.
 
XIII
It was a dark and stormy day
We had all failed
And we’re coming back next year.
The teacher sat
At his desk crying.
 
Carolyne Butler
(Copyright © 2000)