I am first in line for coffee
and the copier is not broken yet.
This is how dreams begin in teaching high school.
First period the boy who usually carves skulls
into his desk raises his hand instead
to ask about Macbeth and, for the first time,
I see his eyes are blue as melting ice.
Then, those girls in the back
stop passing notes and start taking them
and I want to marvel at tiny miracles
but still another hand goes up
and Butch the drag racer says he found the meaning
in that Act III soliloquy. Then more hands join the air
that is now rich with wondering and they moan
at the bell that ends our class and I ask myself,
“How could I have thought of calling in sick today?”
I open my eyes for the next class and no one’s late,
not even Ernie who owns his own time zone
and they’ve all done their homework
that they wave in the air
because everyone wants to go to the board
to underline nouns and each time I turn around
they’re looking at me as if I know something
they want and, steady as sunrise, they do everything right.
At lunch the grouchy food lady discovers smiling
and sneaks me an extra meatball. In the teachers’ room
we eat like family and for twenty-two minutes
not one of us bitches about anything.
Then the afternoon continues the happiness of hands
wiggling with answers and I feel such a spark
when spike-haired Cindy in the satanic tee shirt
picks the right pronoun and glows like a saint.
And me, I’m up and down the room now, cheering,
cajoling, heating them up like a revival crowd.
I’m living only in exclamatory sentences. They want it all
and I’m thinking, “What drug are we on here?”
Just as Crusher Granorski screams, “Predicate nominatives
are awesome!” the principal walks in
with my check and I say, “That’s okay,
you can keep it.” When the bell sounds
they stand, raise lighted matches
and chant, “Adverbs! Adverbs!”
I drive home petting my plan book.
At night I check the weather without wishing for a blizzard
then sleep in the sweet maze of dreams
where I see every student from 32 years of school days:
boys and girls, sons and daughters who’re almost mine,
thousands of them stretching like dominoes into the night
and I call the roll and they sing, “We’re all here, Mr. Romond!”
When I pick up my chalk they open their books,
look up and, with eager eyes, ask me to teach them.
First published in The English Journal.