1984: In a Boat in Watertown — NaPoWriMo Day 19

I was in good company
all day, roomfuls of nine
-teen year-olds.
I listened to
novice interpretations:
Clocks striking thirteen,
a sad man
drinking weak gin
smoking badly-
packed cigarettes
staring down
at his ulcered leg
moving lamely
at instruction from
a screen, not unaware,
but utterly oblivious.

While, thousands of miles away,
a could-be classmate, abandoned love,
Fled the side of
a blood soaked brother
to save his own murderous hide.
How does one grieve
in flight, dragging guilt
heavier than lodestone?
How does one save one’s ass
carrying grief, pain and a haze
of reality shamed?

Does Winston get out alive?
Does anyone?

I was in good company
all day, roomfuls of nine
-teen year-olds.
the burning text
from which every
one leaves
with their spirit
fired into a new thing.


* * *

To be fair, only a handful of my students are nineteen when they get to my Senior English class; another slightly larger handful, will turn nineteen right after graduation. But nineteen is so very close to eighteen — and so very far away, indeed.

I felt the power of events in the Boston area deeply during today’s endgame playing out and could barely tear myself away from twitter feeds to oversee my students’ first day of discussions of Orwell’s 1984.

But once I heard the age of the suspected co-perpetrator of the bombing in Boston, I had trouble facing the kids in my class. They are still such kids, and terrifyingly so. I love them, and I fear for them and the world that will change them; so much that can be wonderful (or horrible) will happen at them, near them, around them and for them in the next year of their lives, and they have exactly ZERO idea. Early in the day, I responded to today’s specific prompt (personal ad) in bitterness and sarcasm in the voice of the then-fugitive, but the piece is too _much_ to share so soon. It stung me.

Meanwhile, I worked on this bit, much toned down, and still tied to all the thinks (that “k” is intentional, not typo) that I thought as I listened to my students and their thoughts blurred into the day’s events. I caught myself wondering: how many of us commit terrors of a greater or lesser sort when we are still too young to truly understand what it means to be alive? And I thought about the people maimed — emotionally and physically — by that multitude of youthful bad decisions both great and small; those who will never forget what this jaunt on earth is really about.

To be honest I’m a little hesitant to publish this, even on my barely-noticed blog space. But I will anyway, because, as one of my former students used to say, “Yes.” ~LD


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