Saturday, March 22, 2008

Poem: In the Mother Teresa Hallway

In the Mother Teresa Hall
I see 2nd hour Mathilda bumps into 6th hour Paul
She is not looking where she is going
she is texting surreptitiously
doesn't she know that this hallway
is practically a church and
therefore not the place
for this type of thing
doesn't she know
that she should watch
where she is going
doesn't she know that
even though we're in a public school this
is the Mother Teresa Hallways
and therefore an almost-sacred place?

I know that Paul has a pass he's on his way
to the library but he gets distracted
by Mother Teresa every time
stands in veneration
feels like he should say his rosaries
or a Hail Mary
or the Apostle's Creed
but right now he's standing in
adoration adulation veneration
of Mathilda and feels like he should say something

Hail Mary full of grace hi I'm paul
we have math together with Mrs. White
and would you like to grab some dinner tonight
with me or maybe lunch tomorrow or we could even
sneak into the teachers' lounge right now while Ms. Roberts
takes her nap
Hail Mary Full of Life please say yes
please smile please know that I'm alive
please know that I exist

please don't walk away.

But when it comes out, Paul sounds like "Oops. Sorry."

And Mathilda doesn't know that she's supposed to stop
supposed to say hi
supposed to put the phone away
until Paul gives her his number
she keeps walking
she doesn't know that she should join him
in adoration veneration

and I can see Paul's words sitting
right behind his apology lurking waiting hoping to be freed

I'm a teacher, see, and I've got eyes on the front of my head
and the back of my head and on my left and right cheeks
but all the hindsight in the world ain't gonna help
with what's right in front of me

I know english and literature
I can deconstruct anything
I can high-five with the best of 'em and
I can grammarize like a fiend

but nothing I can do will help 6th-hour Paul
Who is right in front of me
while 3rd hour Mathilda just walks away
I could take her phone, she's not supposed to have it in school
but that won't solve anything

I can teach Paul stories about love, and about the heart's longing
I can give him Cyrano de Bergerac and Shakespeare and Austen
and Hemingway
but they're not advice manuals, they're equipment for living
and I'm the idiot manning the story-rental-shack.

Paul will probably eat lunch in my room today
like he does most days.
and when he talks, I'm going to see if I can listen to what
he's trying to say, not just what he says out loud
And Hail Mary full of hope, I hope it helps.