An Education

By LAWRENCE RAAB
“Isn’t that just another way to feel compromised?”
Professor Heninger asked. Being freshmen
and mostly women as well, I was sure
we weren’t being invited to disagree.
Then my mind wandered away and when
it came back, Professor Heninger was saying,
“Low expectations are the key to happiness,”
which made sense, however depressing
it was for me, a young person, to take to heart.
Not that I had any evidence that my expectations
should be high, though my parents were paying
a lot of money to believe otherwise.
“What do you see?” our professor hissed.
“What do you feel?” He had no reason
to be angry at me personally, so I decided
this must be part of his performance:
it was time to sound angry, or passionate.
I knew the girl in the second row
he kept addressing his thoughts to, and I figured
she was decoding them in an appropriate way.
“Time means nothing,” he announced, and that
seemed important to him, although I
was of the opinion that time was important.
But for him it must have meant
getting older. And I felt sorry
that he didn’t see that, or didn’t see
that the girl in the second row, who was
in my dorm, knew exactly what was going on.
So much of this makes you think
that bad ideas sound like bad ideas,
which is, if I may say so, an education in itself.
And even if there are less expensive ways
of finding this out, it’s worth keeping
in the back of your mind when anyone starts
lecturing you about time, or the truth,
or what it is you’re supposed to be feeling.

 

LAWRENCE RAAB is the author of eight collections of poems, including The History of Forgetting, A Cup of Water Turns into a Rose, and Mistaking Each Other for Ghosts, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and named one of the ten Best Poetry Books of 2015 by The New York Times. A collection of his essays, Why Don’t We Say What We Mean?, was published in 2016, and a new collection of poems, The Life Beside This One, will appear in the fall of 2017. He teaches literature and writing at Williams College.

Purchase Issue 14 here.

An Education

Related Posts

Gabriella Fee

June 2022 Poetry Feature: Gabriella Fee

GABRIELLA FEE
Death springs from me like a hothouse flower. / My mother swaddles me in terrycloth / and vigils me for three days in her bed. / Pillbox. Rice and lentils. Kettle. Psalm. / She dims the lights as though I were a moth. / She combs my hair.

Image of Zhang Qiaohui and Yilin Wang's headshots.

Translation: “Soliloquy” by Zhang Qiaohui

ZHANG QIAOHUI
You know where Grandma is buried, but do not know / where Grandma’s Grandma is / Jiaochang Hill’s graves have long been displaced, now covered with lush greenery / In the mortal world, a saying, “to have no resting place even after death” / I stand at the old burial ground.

Tree

May 2022 Poetry Feature

By ELIZABETH METZGER
For now, let us choose not to remember / who said History repeats as Tragedy then Farce, / and who else / repeated such nonsense / with variations because, friends, allow me / to be pedantic, just this moment. History repeats / as Tragedy more than once.