English Class, a poem by Robin Chapman

English Class
Robin Chapman

Twelfth grade reading lists stretched out
as endless as the sentences we diagrammed,
as orderly as the outlines for our senior essays—
“Humanism in England in the Fourteenth Century”
I think I wrote about, cobbling facts together
about Erasmus and the Church, forgetting
those were plague years, and Henry David
Thoreau’s pithy quotes, marching to a different
drummer, hooked me for a solitary ramble
of Walden, not knowing he’d dined every night
with Emerson and Alcott; and our teacher
always turned to us with hope, searching
for some sign that we’d found a spark,
an engaged liveliness, in all those endless
marching words—her eyes lit up, her thin hair
frizzed, her faith in us fixed, misplaced,
stirring fugitive regret in our adolescent gaze,
preoccupied with who to ask to the Swankette Ball
and who to sit with at the Friday football game
(whom, she’d certainly have made us say).

Amherst Books in Amherst,  MA

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English Class, a poem by Robin Chapman

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