now she’s gone my teacher wants to know
where the speaker enters the poem
the wind blows open the screen door & it catches
on its chain. outback my neighbors are smoking
a pig to make it last. my teacher only became
my teacher after she passed. before that
she was a woman who had lived a long time.
as always i am an ungrateful child, a student
first of ingratitude. ungracious as a wasp. a knot
in a history of rope your hands don’t notice
as you hold on for dear life. dear life, the speaker
is the chain holding the door closed & the wind
is my teacher, the smoke curing meat,
my teacher had stories about all the dead poets
which made her, while living, prophetic. proximity
is next to godliness. for a woman who had no use
for music or pleasure her writing beats the page
until knuckles singe. my speaker wants to know
when the teacher enters the poem, if she ever leaves,
if she’s always there in the text shaking her heads
cutting the weeds.
Copyright © 2023 by Sam Sax. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 12, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.
“Three of my poetry teachers died over the past several years, two during the pandemic. While living, they were this connective tissue to a whole history of letters, a bridge between their students and their teachers before them, and their teachers before them, and so on and so on. One remarked to me, while living, that, after his teacher died, he felt abandoned at the edge of a page, slowly arranging letters, an empty space stretching out before him. When a teacher dies, a whole library is destroyed, and then, if we’re lucky, we inherit a piece of those libraries. I don’t know how to say it other than that.”