Mike Maguire CC
This is Where It All Takes Place
At the shoe store, I say, Do you have those Rockport work shoes
that look good but have the comfort soles? I'm on my feet a lot,
and the salesperson says, Where do you work? and I say,
At the university, and she says, In the dining hall? and I say,
No, I teach poetry, and she says, Isn't teaching just sitting on a desk
and talking? and I say, Not the way I do it. In my sophomore
interdisciplinary honors course on public intellectuals, 15
of 15 students checked “excellent” for “overall instructor rating.”
Damned straight. I taught the hell out of that class. I taught that
damned class so hard I lost weight. What is teaching, though?
Good teaching, I mean. My friend Luther tells me that when
he wanted to quit smoking, he saw an ad for a seminar on breaking
the cigarette habit through self-hypnosis, so he goes to the Days Inn
and pays his $35, and in walks a guy with a shiny jacket and lots of
pomade who says, Mah name is Howard Fleming, and ahm here
to teach ya to quit smoking though self-hypnosis. Tomorruh,
ah want ya to look in a mirruh, and ah want ya to say, Women
don’t lahk me. Ah am not a success at mah chosen profession.
Ah do not dress well. Ah am overweight, and ah eat all
the wrong things. But today, ah quit smokin’—forevuh!
Luther got a workbook and a cassette tape which he gave me later,
and on it you can hear Howard Fleming saying, Remembuh--
self-hypnosis takes place in your mahnd. In that documentary
about poor doomed Amy Winehouse, Tony Bennett says,
Life teaches you how to live it, if you're lucky enough to live
that long. You’re right about that, Tony. Just remember,
it all takes place in your mahnd, as the ancients have been
telling us for centuries, though it sounds better coming
from Howard Fleming, doesn’t it? It is not actions but opinions
concerning actions that disturb men, said Epictetus, yet who knows
where he got that from? A commoner,
a slave—someone who spent a lot of time thinking, probably, thinking big.
David Kirby teaches at Florida State University. His collection The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems was a finalist for both the National Book Award and Canada’s Griffin Poetry Prize. He is the author of Little Richard: The Birth of Rock ‘n’ Roll, which the Times Literary Supplement of London called “a hymn of praise to the emancipatory power of nonsense” and was named one of Booklist’s Top 10 Black History Non-Fiction Books of 2010. His latest books are a poetry collection, Help Me, Information, and a textbook modestly entitled The Knowledge: Where Poems Come From and How to Write Them.
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