A School Exercise

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by Jeffrey Burghauser (July 2019)


The Beginning (Panel 3), Max Beckmann, 1949

 

Teaching is an act of rage

Focused on the You you were

Back when you were of that age—

Focused also on the Sir

Who was fine allowing you to stay that way.

Teaching is an act of rage.

 

What’s a teacher then to do

When he learns a student who

(One believes) was taught the True

Has become a teacher, too?

Thusly, son, ancestral sin doth ricochet.

What’s a teacher then to do?

                                   

I cannot transmit a truth

Cleansed of all the residue

That (when I was but a youth)

Clung with such possession to

Gilded edges of the truth that I received.

I cannot transmit a truth.

 

“This is how you clean a gun.”

“This is how you edit prose.”

“Damnit, pay attention, son.”

“This is how HaTikvah goes.”

“This is how a precious baby is conceived.”

This is how you clean a gun.

 

Tell me what it’s like to die,

All your weathered strings unwound.

How torments me more than Why.

Should more rain assault the ground,

All the soil’s mouths will sigh. Let’s see the skull.

Tell me what it’s like to die.

 

Zweig describes a childhood

During which the label “Jew”

Moldered undeployed. Oh, would

That Experience were true

As substantial Innocence is beautiful!

Zweig describes a childhood.

 

You will meet the World Below

As one meets a swiveling

Office chair abandoned so

Recently you find the thing

At the end of its decelerating spin.

You will meet the World Below.

 

Teaching is an act of rage.

Man must be a hiltless knife.

Man must by a certain age

Learn to play upon a life

Just as Paganini played the violin.

Teaching is an act of rage.

 

 

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Jeffrey Burghauser is a teacher in Columbus, OH. He was educated at SUNY-Buffalo and the University of Leeds. He currently studies the five-string banjo with a focus on pre-WWII picking styles. A former artist-in-residence at the Arad Arts Project (Israel), his poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Appalachian Journal, Fearsome Critters, Iceview, Lehrhaus, and New English Review. Jeffrey’s book-length collection, Real Poems, is available on Amazon and his website is www.jeffreyburghauser.com.

Follow NER on Twitter @NERIconoclast

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