Ode for My Department Chair Who Left a Face Shield on My Desk


For Sally

Because all of this is seeing through

complex prisms; seeds reconciling

to stalks that lean grey-blue instead of


the expected, upright green. Because

the soil we trusted, turned, and patted

on our knees became unresponsive, a sick


child’s pale serene. Because birds and

song became a dull-working machine.

Because this exchange called teaching


is more than granting access, pointing

to open gates. Because Sophocles portrayed

us as we ought to be; but Euripides


portrayed us as we are: surprisingly unstayed

and dying a happy death in front of them.

Breath after breath. Because care in a time


like this is not a stockpiling of perfect arguments,

pleas and refrains as if part of a lesson plan –

or worse, the cliché – something preordained.


Because master and apprentice should look

the same. Smithies hammering, melding,

iron and steel. Because metals, once coupled


with the right vistas and bent into shapes –

a cruciform, time’s infinite wheel – were

in a previous plague, thought to heal.




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Copyright © 2020  M. B. McLatchey. All rights reserved.
Published in NCTE's 2021 Fall issue of  English Journal, National Council of Teachers of English

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