A mimeograph of John Ciardi’s poem was waiting on each boy’s desk as we took our seats for the first class on the first day of 7th grade at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy.  I nearly fainted.  Amazingly, my mother kept the sheet of paper all these years.  RIP, Wendell Hall: may God increase your reward with every word I write.

I wish I could teach you how ugly

decency and humility can be when they are not

the election of a contained mind but only

the defenses of an incompetent.  Were you taught

meekness as a weapon?  Or did you discover,

by chance maybe, that it worked on mother

and was generally a good thing …

at least when all else failed … to get you over

the worst of what was coming.  Is that why you bring

those sheepfaces to Tuesday?

They won’t do.

It’s ten month’s work I want, and I’d sooner have it

from the brassiest lumpkin in pimpledom, but have it,

than all these martyred repentences from you.

Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

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  1. I also walked into U of D Jesuit in 7th grade to find that on my desk. Now that I teach 7th graders, I reflect back on its utter veracity with envy. How I long to show it to every parent in my school. Communication is the process of transmitting ideas or emotions through symbols, indeed.

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