We’re Behind

Another visit to another classroom

“We’re behind. You still need . . . ”
the teacher reminds them, us,
almost every five minutes,
sliding farther behind by the length
of behinding she gains by saying it again.

It is another bland blind reminder
of the infelicitous mind of the professionalized teacher.
“I don’t do poetry,” she declaims at me,
the tattered coat upon a stick, visiting.
“I’m into literature.”

The desperately regimented un-curiosity.
Raw expertise shoved
breathlessly beyond wonder.
Pre-lesson, lesson-lesson, post-lesson.
Bell. Watch-check. Door.


Out there beyond the picture window,
transparent and opaque at one inert moment,
out in the sun is no freedom either,
but light at least and eyes to lead me—

while my eyes wander away, they
will wiggle up what they can
of that eucalyptus just off
the limits of your campus,
or at least I will take into my willing old lungs

a little of its healing fragrance—
to lead me back
to the comfortable old shrine
of my father’s 1938 Underwood portable
and a pencil—


and sentences.
Which just now I am beginning to lack.
We are expendable,
children, you and I,
orphans in the electronical miasma,

and I admit that I feel reduced
to the echo of your collective whine,
a poem of whining, but true grief
in defeat, left in pencil smudge,
left threatened as we are

when we try to breathe gently on our words
just ahead of the pink eraser
that creeps pacelessly closer
the yellow foolscap boneyard
of discarded minds.

Richard Fenton Sederstrom was raised and lives in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and the North Woods of Minnesota. Sederstrom is the author of seven books of poetry, his newest book, Icarus Rising, Misadventures in Ascension, published by Jackpine Writers' Bloc, was released last winter. Read other articles by Richard Fenton.