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

textured sand

January 2022 Poetry Feature

MADELEINE MORI
A. and I were both hurt by that cold, hard change, / the snap of my leg bones. / I saw the root in the trail as a swag-bellied dog / with a cape I wanted to support— / both dog and sneaker flying as one. / When they came, Search and Rescue’s tools unbent my pain.

headshot of Elvira Hernandez

Translation: Poems by Elvira Hernández

ELVIRA HERNÁNDEZ
nowhere / anywhere / would poets meet dressed as beacons / if their mirrors were not fogged / if their mirrors were not fogged / they would have seen the mandorla set sail / perhaps at this hour they are filing claims /to recover their lost luggage / agreed: that’s not the teide

blackbird upon a puddle

Translation: Poetry by Esther Ramón

ESTHER RAMÓN
Two of those brief animals / that populated the branches / and the furniture made useless / by humidity and neglect. / They were separated / From time that burns as it passes, / from this insignificance, / from the feeding cycle, / my desires in the shredded remains