Tuesday, December 4, 2012

early december, late monday night, bad haiku

"what does confluence
mean?" for a moment, i am
unable to speak,

unable to grasp
that in the fourteenth week of
any semester

anyone could ask:
"what does confluence mean?" first,
i cannot breathe. i

will the breath into
and out of my lungs in ways
that save both me and

the student, both much
closer to dangerous
territory than

one of us knows, then
remember that my face is--

visible. for one
moment, i pause to compose
my face, my answer,

my fate and hers. "did
you look it up? confluence?"
no need to lie when

no one calls you out
for it.  ever.  she shakes her
head, mouths the word "no,"

and i know that i
have been given a perfect
moment. "confluence,"

i say, "confluence ...
means anything you want it
to mean. ancient greek

for magic, it means ...
to fly without the aid of
machinery or

fear; or to bring to
life a thought which has died; to
hear the last leaves of

autumn rustling; to
comfort the unrequited;
to bake sourdough bread

with no oven; to
find lost keys, to mint new coins,
to pet three cats at

once, to dance a jig,
pepper a sandwich, fart out
loud, finagle a

sum, remember to
shut the front door and--sometimes--
to bring together

fragments to make a
whole." the look that crept across
her young face--a mix

of bald-faced anger
and total confusion--was
almost rewarding.

almost.  "you're lying,"
she said, and i was--called out
deliciously for

both of us, for it
gave me what i needed most,
the chance to say what

needed to be said.
"how do you know?" i said. "you
didn't bother to

look it up, didn't
care enough. you forfeit this
word. Confluence is

mine, is what i say
it is until you find out
otherwise."  she sat,

as did the others
in the room, silently.  not
one eye could meet mine.

if only, i thought,
she or any one of them
had been taking notes.


  1. Greta, you are an amazing poet. This was such a delight. You bring to life your misery and make it beautiful, something I might have said was impossible.

  2. Some great imagery here, Greta. Good stuff.

  3. Students mystify me. You, Greta, are beautiful!

  4. Careful, Greta. You are creating a Hostile Classroom Environment and you will be called on the carpet for it. The nerve, telling your precious students that they are responsible for their own learning!

    1. I had several such situations while I was teaching at a tech college.

      Students often grumbled in their evaluations that I didn't make "appropriate" use of the textbook, so I eventually changed my approach. When they asked me a question about, say, the density of a certain material, and that information was contained in an appendix in that same textbook, I told them to look it up. After all, they'd have to do that in the workplace.

      Did they like that? Naaaaah. That was too much work for them and it made them think I was totally useless. After all, they asked me a question and I was expected to give them the answer. Why else was I there?

      I guess there's just no satisfying some people.

  5. I love your creativity and wit. Brava!

  6. A true teachable moment (much rarer than the educrats believe), beautifully created, handled, and narrated. Brava!

  7. I like this not just for the misery, but for the poetry. Seriously.

  8. As always, I am left awed and speechless because my brain doesn't think poetically when it comes to students.

  9. I seriously hope that was a true story put to poetry, because that story is AWESOME.

  10. Don't you're expecting a bit much, Greta? After all, "confluence" has three whole syllables!

    And I just know that if you say, "Where the Allegheny River and the Monongahela River come together to form the Ohio River is a confluence," you'll get a blank look, even if you're in Pittsburgh.

    1. I had students who got all bent out of shape in their evaluations because I was using words that were, in their opinion, either too long or too fancy. Those same words were terms appropriate to the subject matter and were even used in settings where the course material would be applied.

      It was comments like that which made me feel as if I was trying to empty an river by bailing with a sieve.

    2. I learned at a very young age (well before 9th grade) that people who complained, "You use too many big words," were trouble.

  11. Post of the Semester.

    I usually
    respond in verse, but after
    that, I've got nothin.


  12. Well-deserved POW! I second Cassandra -- wonderful moment, tremendously handled.