Poetry Friday: Dedicated to Teachers

Seeing as the school year is gearing up (I personally am beginning to dread the prospect of waking up at 5 AM this coming Monday for my first day), I’m sharing a poem by poet and a high school teacher Matthew Lippman. It’s long, but so worth it. So this is for you, teachers. Keep in mind: When your students get on your last nerve, remember that YOU are the only one who will teach them Chaucer and Eliot and Faulkner.

A Few a Day

by Matthew Lippman

I throw kids out of my classroom all the time.
I have to.
They bring in their submarines
and crash them into desktops,
They order pizza from Dominoes and blow up their homework.
I throw them out.

I tell them to get on the bus
take it down to Coney Island,
go for a walk,
smell the salt,
watch the juggler in a trench coat
ask for a dollar.

They don’t listen.
It’s a long-lasting battle.

Jackson with the big feet
talked me into canceling the exam on Milton and Proust.
He said: I have my own memory of horror
then proceeded to rip up the carpet with his knees.
I had to kick him out,
I had been duped.

He couldn’t remember the first thing
about talking in rhyme.

When his aunt came in for a conference
she brought me a cake with a hacksaw in the middle.
Everything was all smiles and we laughed until we cried
and then all the windows broke.

It was the kids outside
throwing stones,
the ones I had already thrown out,
so I fetched Drano.

That did nothing
and it was a week of Pound on Eliot
and Pound on Virgil
and Virgil walking happy through the autumnal sand.

Then I had to start throwing kids out again.
A few a day.
A couple before noon,
three after lunch.
But they all kept coming back
in their Sherman tanks
and their space shuttle detonations,
crashing full speed ahead
into the pictures on the walls
of Faulkner and Chaucer,
chalk dust in their eyes,
caterpillars who couldn’t fly.

Come now, I said, can’t you see
that your life is a fraction of a second too fast?

But they heard nothing and kept on talking
about satin robes and rabbit sex,
about razorblades and asbestos.

It was too much for any man steeped in physics and iambic
so I grabbed the back of my neck
to save the lesson

and hurled myself out the classroom door
into the big sea
of this already exploding notebook.

Today’s Poetry Friday round up can be found here.


  1. Joyce says:

    Wow! Thanks for this poem. I also enjoyed yesterday’s post about expectations for ESL and other students. I taught ESL for three years and well remember my students’ frustration with state testing.

  2. Now that’s one for the books. Truly a voice of a teacher, if I ever heard one. Haha. I’m a teacher educator – I must say that I’m glad I don’t have the same problem (mine comes in a different form altogether haha) – thank you for sharing this lovely poem. it really made me smile this evening.

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