1.28.2014 Journal Prompt

Image from Of Good Report
Image from Of Good Report

January 28, 2014: He thought he wanted this.

One Reply to “1.28.2014 Journal Prompt”

  1. There’s a poem by Lawrence and it’s about the last lesson of an afternoon and he has not the energy or the will to drive the unruly hounds on. He’s talking about teaching and the exhaustion he feels at the end of the day and the indifference of his pupils. You see, it’s not anything new this hard that teaching is.

    It’s quiet now they have gone, except the clock on the wall counting time, and in my head I hear them still as I replay the end to the day, suffering again the punch and kick of their resistance. And I have no answer to their ‘what are we learnin this for?’ Truckers and carpenters and shopkeepers, that’s what they’ll be one day, and no use for Milton or Poe then. Or nurses and lady’s maids. That’s the stretch of their ambition and no need for Shakespeare below stairs.

    But there’s one moon-faced girl who runs her finger under the words as I read them, and she is moved to tears sometimes or to joy, and I wonder if there might be a heaven-seeking soul there and if my teaching might be a balm to her everyday troubles. More and more I find myself thinking of her and I hear her small voice speaking to me and I think she understands.

    Her name is Catherine and she carries her books pressed to her, like a shield to protect her, and her heart hid behind those books surely beats fast. And once she stayed behind to ask me something, and I noticed then how pretty she is and the afternoon sunlight falling on her, and she wanted to know the meaning of a line from Keats we had read: ‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty.’

    It is wrong these feelings in me. She is just a girl. I know that and so I lied to her when I talked that day of Keats and his truth. She said she thought she loved Keats and if he was there in the classroom, alive and breathing the same air, she would kiss him and think him beautiful no matter if age had thickened his skin or silvered his hair.

    I bit my tongue and said nothing.

    Then today, and I had not the strength to beat their heads with learning, and like Lawrence I waited just for the bell to call an end to everything, and Catherine raised her hand and asked if I might read some poetry to brighten the dullness of the afternoon. I read ‘Love’s Philosophy’ by Shelley. The boys jeered and said I was soft or Shelley was, and the girls asked why he had to talk so fancy. Catherine, I saw, held her fingers to her lips, as though there was a secret there, as though she felt a kiss that was Shelley’s or mine.

    And in the silence now they are gone, I chastise myself for being so much the fool. And I throw Shelley to the floor and resolve to next day teach something more plain and less honest. And I run my fingers through my hair and breathe deep and banish a Catherine from my thoughts. It must be so.

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