Sunday, January 31, 2016

First Day of Class -- Michael Hettich




 
I was thinking of starting a forest, he says,
when I ask what he plans to do with his life
after he graduates. If I did that,
he explains, I would have to learn self-reliance
and I’d understand the animals. I wonder how many
trees I’d have to grow to become
a forest, a real one. The other students listen silently
and some even nod, as if what he said
was something they’d considered too. But they’ve all told me
lawyer or physical therapist, nurse
or businessperson. There have been no dancers
or even English majors. But this young man is serious,
sitting there in tee-shirt and baseball cap, straight-backed
and speaking with a deferential nod, as though
I could help him--as I’ve been explaining I’m here
to do, their professor. We’ll form a small community
I’ve told them, or I hope we will, and we’ll discuss the world.
It seems to be raining this morning, though I’m not sure
since this classroom doesn’t have windows. It was raining
when I drove in at first light, splashing through the streets:
Some of the students wear slickers; others carry
brightly-colored umbrellas. And now another young man
raises his hand and says that, on second thought,
he wants to be a farm, an organic farm with many bees
and maybe even cows and pigs no one will ever eat
that live like pets. I love fresh milk, he says.
Then someone else tells us she’s always secretly
yearned to be a lake somewhere up north in the woods—
let’s say in Maine, since I love seasons
and I wonder how it feels to freeze tight,  not move
for months, how it feels to open up again
in the spring; and I’ve always wondered how fish would feel
swimming through my body, how that might  make me shiver
like love. And she laughs then. And thus the room grows wild.





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