To My Teacher


Surprise me, lift me off to somewhere new
send me on a roundabout way
make it a uncommon journey
one that I might not have taken
if not for you.
Too far out of my perimeter,
and I might not go with you —
Don’t make it too familiar either.

Use your own words, the idiosyncratic ones
the ones that tumble in your head
when you speak them in the wrong crowd –
we all wince.

Don’t tell me too much.

Every once in a while smuggle in an organizing notion
a re-visioning
sneak it past the guardians of equanimity
the first line of defense
then ease past the conversationalists
the ones who speak loftier than I do.

You speak right around them.

My teachers, the owl-eyed Dr. Reines
in his work shirt and heavy boots and the others
sit in faculty Senate. Dr. Lehman who speaks slowly but draws on four,
five civilizations he quotes from memory, Dr. Petachowski
hitching up his pants, Dr. Fish
roaming through the texts of a dozen libraries on three continents, Dr. Marcus
in the front row with his hands cupped behind his ears, Dr. Rivkin
kissing us after class and —
you wiggling your fingers and instructing me to begin over
you are all inside me and a tough gang to penetrate.

Be thoughtful and push your ideas
the best you can through them won’t you
[you are merciless on language].

Be a thinker, a word maven
sweet singer of the unconventional soul
you remember Dr. Mihaly chewing on his pipe
he will be standing in the circle of review
saying this, something
I might have put in his mouth
or he actually said it:
I need meaning
It completes me.

And please
I’m speaking to you now Bonia
a place of special honor for you who
saw me when I came looking — for what?
You would be waiting
sucking air through your teeth
combing your hair and fiddling with your guitar
come and learn with me you are saying –

you will be my student
I will be your teacher.

jsg, usa