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Poetry

Why Do You Want to Be a Teacher?

 

I have been everything.

The commentary track

to the dark comedy

of American History

I provided without solicitation.

The blue hair with winter rain

in it was mine, and I

was the one who came empty handed

to Geometry

that you passed with a D.

You could count on me 

to read aloud The Diary

of Anne Frank

or my fiction

about a man whose body falls

asleep one limb at a time

until he can’t get out of bed one morning

and everyone decides he’s not

worthy of their love.

I sang tenor in your choir, sang

the national anthem before the ball games,

but unless you grabbed me by the arm

I wouldn’t stand from my desk

for the pledge of allegiance 

(not even once) in high school.

I opened up owl pellets

every time you asked

and from these wretched globes

I put together a thousand 

warped skeletons of small mammals

with a hundred mandibles

left over.

You wished you had a thousand of me,

you’d tell my mom;

and then we’d go up the hall and you’d

make her cry 

as you put it bluntly,

you’d never had such a lazy student.

My head is a thing I kept

against the window on long bus rides,

usually with spit.

If you looked me in the eye and asked

me to explain why I felt that way,

to elaborate on my answer,

it really meant something.

There isn’t anyone

I don’t want to save,

no point of view

I can’t find myself in.

For everyone 

who takes a seat in my class

I know

has been in an invisible rain

of violets and skulls.

I want to be the friendly monk

with a stained-glass haircut

who sits with them and listens.

By Chris Prewitt 

 

Mea Culpa

Sorry, everyone, I’m sorry.

I took such poor care

of myself for years.

I know things got weird.

On Monday, I was affable

and witty. Even if you

who wanted to design

prosthetic limbs

couldn’t understand

why you had to write

argumentative essays,

you did find me funny

and kind. But then

on Wednesday, what happened?

I was irritable for no reason,

all my spoken sentences seemed to be

the output of The William Burroughs

Cut Up Generator,

and a profound sadness 

that emanated from me

filled the room

as I sat at the table at the front,

looking at my hands.

I hope the notes I left 

on your essays made sense,

though I didn’t really want to write them

if I knew you’d just flip

to your grade and throw into the wastebasket

your essay on the way out the door.

I can only say sorry, sorry—

as I said to you about your writing, sometimes

it takes great courage

to admit that you need help.

By Chris Prewitt 

 

Day One

Once the syllabus is out of the way,

then we get to business.

I make a point about interpretation: not

all interpretations work.

For instance, 

suppose we were to read Robert Frost’s

‘Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,’

and a student said,

‘Mr. Prewitt, this poem is about the use of submarines

in the first World War,’

how

would that make any sense?

So we’ll talk a lot

about evidence.

I’m not a doctor.

I’m an adjunct. I have no office. I have no reason

to believe I’ll be here once the semester’s over,

so I’ll put my heart into this class as if it were

my last sixteen weeks on earth,

but don’t expect me to read email

after 4 pm.

That requires the premium Prewitt plan

which ultimately falls on the college to pay.

(It won’t.)

You know about Rate My Professor?

I encourage you to read

reviews. You should take the class that’s right for you

with someone you can work with.

This subject’s that important.

For what it’s worth,

most students seem to like me. They think

that my class is easy.

For others, not only is the class a waste

of time, they also find me pretentious.

Which is true.

This World’s Greatest Dad mug you see me

regularly taking drinks from?

I don’t have any kids.

Though this is Composition I, think of this more broadly

as a course in communication.

What are good relationships built on?

Communication

and trust.

We’ll learn both here.

 

By Chris Prewitt 

Chris Prewitt is the author of Paradise Hammer (SurVision Books), winner of the 2018 James Tate Poetry Prize. Prewitt's writing has also been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Prewitt has also received the Virginia Tech/Poetry Society of Virginia Poetry Prize. 

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