Poetry and the Memory of a Teacher

As I was paying for two coffees this morning, (they were absolutely necessary), a whisper of a poem came back to haunt me.

I too, sing America.”

As I was driving back home, I heard the whisper again “I will fight no more forever.”

And I remembered.

I remembered English class with our teacher, a man about to retire.  I remember how he left a copy of Walden in his classroom, hoping that someone would take it.  I did.  I devoured it.  And then I returned it, a different soul.

I remember how he taught us poetry that the town we live in would deem unnecessary. William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes, Chief Joseph, Simon and Garfunkel.

Every time I hear “The Sound of Silence,” I think of this teacher’s lessons on anthropomorphism.

What I value the most about that particular teacher is that he didn’t shy away from issues of injustice.  What I may have been too blind to see then, in high school, I can see now, with open and grateful eyes.  This teacher defied convention.  He used poetry, great speeches, and music to teach me lessons that would stir thoughts in my soul.  Thoughts toward justice and advocacy.

Using poetry to stir thoughts of greatness.  Not a novel idea, but the practice is slowly diminishing in our culture.

Now I married a man who does not breathe poetry.  But he breathes commitment to ideals.  And he reads our children poetry animatedly and willingly.  And he allows me to continue to buy tomes of poetry for the young. And he lives out a life in passion to fight against injustice.

Which is not popular.

And he doesn’t need to know the words to live the life.

But he is a poem.  And our life is poetry.

This morning I opened facebook and found a movie of my oldest child, four years ago, reciting a poem at only two years old.  And my heart sang as it remembers that the next generation will not be void of poetry.

Our children will hear America singing.  They will hear “Still I rise” echoed in the faces around them.  They will know what it takes to be a man, my son.  And they will know the power of their unconquerable souls.

Because of this teacher who was brave enough to teach unconventionally–who taught poetry to a girl who was just on the cusp of young adulthood.

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