On this late Wednesday evening, I have been absent from a high school classroom for three days. I resigned at the end of November, choosing not to return for the start of 2013, or as teachers mark time, the second half of the year. Waking up leisurely and lingering over coffee in a quiet, restful house, puttering about in jammies for longer than I should admit — it’s like summer break, but in January. Odd. And oddly exhilarating. But something’s missing. Books, conversation, drafting and revising, finding something new in the great old literature, and discovering old ideas in the brand new offerings — well, it’s been my life for so long now, that re-shaping my days to fit a new me will take some time.
So, while I wait, wondering and searching for ‘what’s next,’ I am going to walk into a new classroom on Monday morning. A university setting this time. Students just a bit older than my previous lot. Maybe a bit sharper, maybe a bit duller, maybe just the same as students anywhere, any time. Some eager, some disdainful, some filled with ideas, and some uncertain what they should think. Writers. Readers. Thinkers. Some who will ask, when they weren’t paying attention, when they weren’t in the classroom…
Did I Miss Anything?
Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours
Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 percent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 percent
Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose
Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light suddenly descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring the good news to all people
Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?
Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human experience
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place
And you weren’t here
From Did I Miss Anything? Selected Poems 1973-1993, 1993 Harbour Publishing Copyright 1993 Tom Wayman. All rights reserved.
I can hardly wait to share this poem on Monday. In a gathering place called a classroom, where learning might just break out. I’d hate to miss it.