A Revelation

A Revelation

“Oh, not her class!

She’s strict, she’s straight—she smells!”

This litany became our welcome

to class English V—early American Literature—

and when we met

this little ramrod figure—a pole within a square—

her hair like twigs––a veritable heron’s nest—

we stared

and sat in dubious silence.

And over months

she questioned, made us answer, made us question

what we had gleaned of Thoreau’s heart

of Emerson’s “tin ear”

of Hawthorn’s corseted New England

and Melville’s seas

of Poets Lowell and Longfellow

until our sense of who and what

had whittled, shaped and molded values,

who rebelled

and who defined a culture rich in metaphor

illusion, dreams and puritanical rigidity––

articulate     distinct

a culture we could share

because we felt its bones in place.

I found it didn’t matter

how she gestured with her arms and body

how, when excited, she would whirl

to emphasize a point

and spit—

her face aglow.

I drank in all her love for words,

her strange digressions of wonder

into Middle English poetry:

until we rode those lost, lone ships

through iceberg seas, and heard the black-backed gulls

and terns cry out our loneliness.

She became for me the very essence

of her passionate grasp

of what all literature could be:

a love song to Man’s myriad masks and myths

his lusts,

his faults, mistakes and growths,

his honor, pain, and reaching––compassion,

cruelty, hope,

and on occasion,

his immersion through mysticism

of grace

into divinity.