Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The English Teacher

When I told them how Jim Crow
made prisons of
bathrooms, restaurants,
candy stores, schools

and how the school bus forced
colored kids into a ditch,
(too black to ride)
and justice finally failed
even Sunday school girls,

they looked askance,
narrowing their eyes
and asked how people
could be so unfair,

so I showed them.

Six million gone
with the careless wave
of the Kommandant’s baton,
and Anne, discovered and reduced
to words on a page.

Their eyes grew suddenly old and grave.

asking them to write April poems,
I say,
look at the cold spring day…
wind blowing
through restless trees,
rain filling the land to
make it green,

but instead they sing dirges,
of children who murder,
and children who die.

So why should I be surprised ?
They did not make this world
and I cannot lie.

Author notes

(after reading Billy Collins’s poem, “The History Teacher”)


  1. This is a stunning poem, stark and true. I especially admire its closing lines.......fantastic!

  2. This certainly brings me up short too! Wonderful poem. I'll try and find the Collins.

  3. Oh, I belatedly saw you had a link to the Collins poem. Hmm, see why you wrote yours - his is a very different kind of teacher. Yet your poem and his make the same point in contrasting ways.


  4. Wow - what an ode to teachers. This really takes it to the heart of the matter. I'm a teacher and this washes away some built-up cynicism.

  5. Always show them, the children will know a liar. Someday children will walk us into the solution. So, yeah, here's another poet that goes on my list!

  6. What inspiration Billy Collins is!

  7. Thanks for sharing this poet. He has a dark edge to be sure. Your poem was excellent I felt it was a continuation of the History Teacher