Long Day

I guess, at the speed things move now, the inaugural is old news.  I only saw a little of it; I hear it was a long day.  For the record, I thought Obama’s speech was serviceable, though a little cliche ridden (rising tides, nagging fears, etc.).  The prayers were annoyingly didactic, something I don’t think you need to be… if you’re talking to God. 

But, against every expectation, I kinda liked the poem (“Praise Song for the Day” by Elizabeth Alexander).  Many, evidently, did not.  Some found it trite, or worse.  I actually thought it was unpretentious and pretty well scaled for the occasion.  Maybe she could’ve read it a little better.  Maybe, as a work of literature, you’d have to situate it somewhere south of Robert Frost.  But what do I know?  I taught middle school, not grad school.

I do know this: she got one little detail wrong.  It’s somewhere in the middle, but it jumped right out.  It’s in there where she’s bestowing a little vers libre heft on a lot of quotidian endeavors (stitching hems, changing tires, like that).  Goes like this:

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

Now, in many a public school classroom, here’s how that would’ve gone:

A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.
Huh? Wadshe say?
Get out a pencil.
A what?
A pencil, fool.
Don’t call me fool.
The teacher explains, We don’t call people fools.
Take out a pencil, she repeats.
I think maybe it’s in my locker.
Lost mine.
Me too.
Me too.
Me too
The teacher says, Okay, who doesn’t have a pencil?
The teacher says, Okay, okay.
The teacher somehow, someway gets everyone a pencil.
Lending, borrowing, trading, selling if need be.
Then tries again. Begin.
Begin what?
Writing, fool.
I don’t have any paper.
Me too. I ran out.
Me too.
Me too.
Me too.

And so forth. 

Now that can make a long day.


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