Let’s Talk Poetry: School Days

August 18, 2013

Neil Carpathios

Contributing Columnist

Big yellow buses, marching bands, back packs, lunch boxes, chalk dust, and a certain crisp electricity of anticipation in the air. Yes, another school year is upon us. In the minds of many youngsters—I can almost hear it—is the thought: Where, oh where, did the sweet summer go? But it is note-taking time again, and the doing (or not doing) of homework. It is the time of showing off the new haircut and shoes to the old pals, reunited in cafeterias and classrooms. It is the start of a new adventure, maybe new friendships, as well as apprehensive returns to certain dark corners of the school universe. Ah, I remember it well, that mix of excitement and dread. Oh, can’t you just hear the harsh music of the halls—the clanging of those locker doors slamming, echoing off walls?

In honor of this new school year, here are three short poems. The first offers a unique description of perhaps the emblem of school days: those buses we see every morning. The next two capture the universal experience we have all had of that certain loved teacher, as well as the not-so-loved one.

School Buses

Six of them: great orange, great golden carp

Lined up at the railroad crossing, red stop fins fanning.

Each waits, each listens, and crosses in turn

Headed for the lily shoals of children. (by Frank Kooistra)

Mrs. Goldwasser

Shimmered like butterscotch; the sun

had nothing on her. She bangled

when she walked. No one

did not love her. She shone,

she glowed, she lit up any room,

her every gesture jewelry.

And O, when she called us all by name

how we all performed!

Her string of little beads,

her pearls, her rough-cut

gemstones, diamonds, we hung

about her neck. And when

the future pressed her flat,

the world unclasped, and tarnished. (by Ron Wallace)

Zimmer’s Head Thudding against the Blackboard

At the blackboard I had missed

Five number problems in a row,

And was about to foul a sixth,

When the old exasperated nun

Began to pound my head against

My six mistakes. When I cried,

She threw me back into my seat,

Where I hid my head and swore

That very day I’d be a poet,

And curse her yellow teeth with this. (by Paul Zimmer)

Address correspondence and poetry submissions to: ncarpathios@shawnee.edu or Neil Carpathios, Dept. of English & Humanities, Shawnee State University, 940 Second Street, Portsmouth, OH 45662. (740-351-3478).