Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Day Walt Whitman Came to School

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," Spring Break edition! Not a moment too soon, there's a little lull in the school calendar.


I went to work today with the worst case of laryngitis I've ever had. I could do little more than whisper.

You might ask, "How does a school teacher in that kind of shape, with 100 freshmen in six classes, impart any learning on the day before Spring Break, and a dress-down day at that?"

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Those three of you who have been lumbering along with "The Gods Are Bored" lo, these many years, will know the story of the Weird Stranger Who Became a Best Friend, a.k.a. the Monkey Man. My last rhumba with the Monkey Man was back at Samhain, when we blew away the competition in the Not Snobville Halloween Parade -- he as Edgar Allan Poe, me as Jabberwock. Since then I haven't seen him at all.

But it turns out that, in addition to being a poet himself, he actually knows Walt Whitman!

My friend the Monkey Man arranged for Walt Whitman to visit my classes today in order to recite poetry to them and get them excited about the famous man in their midst.

I arranged the tables so that there was a little theater-in-the-round, and Mr. Whitman entertained my troops with alternating stories about his life in Camden and passages from his poetry. By the end of the day, the classroom floor was strewn with grass and good will.

An odd thing happened, though. About a quarter of my students insisted firmly that Walt Whitman was not, in fact, Walt Whitman, but rather a poet who currently lives in Camden by the name of  Rocky Wilson. Some students were emphatic on this point, and they begged to see the monkey.

 In each class, when Walt Whitman bade farewell, he walked out, and a moment later Rocky Wilson walked in. Some coincidence, huh? But it made everyone happy. The students got to hear passages from "Song of Myself," and then they also got to pet Rocky's monkey (a fond friend from their childhoods in various Camden primary schools). The added benefit was that we have also been studying Nick Virgilio, a famous haiku poet who lived in Camden -- and Rocky Wilson knew Nick Virgilio.

Rocky could not move ten feet in the hallways of the Vo Tech without being recognized. Even the lunch lady lives on his street. We had a fine time together, he and I. We always do. I treated him to lunch (remember, it's a Vo Tech with a Culinary Arts shop, so we eat like Tudors every day), and we made plans to get to some poetry events in May.

This is what I have learned about life. Proceed with patience, accept small miracles that accrue into larger miracles. (Who makes much of a miracle?) Then, sit back and smile when, just for a moment, all the Legos snap into place and you've built a pretty doggoned fine palace.

Mr. Whitman recited these lines, which I find particularly inspiring:


The spotted hawk swoops  by and accuses me,

he complains of my gab and my loitering.

I too am not a bit tamed, I too am

untranslatable.

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of

the world.

The last scud of day holds back for me,

It flings my likeness after the rest and true

as any on the shadow'd wilds,

It coaxes me to the vapor and the dusk.

I depart as air, I shake my white locks at

the runaway sun,

I effuse my flesh in eddies, and drift it in

lacy jags.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from

the grass I love,

If you want me again look for me under

your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,

But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,

And filter and fibre your blood.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,

Missing me one place search another,

I stop somewhere waiting for you. 




And you, and you, and you ... and you ...

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2 Comments:

At April 22, 2011 , Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

What a great event for your students!

 
At April 22, 2011 , Blogger Pom said...

I'm glad to hear Monkey Man made an appearance and even happier that someone like him exists and chooses to spend his time on worthy causes. Special friends often find one another as the two of you have.

 

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