Monthly Archives: June 2015

For Dr. Peter Schramm

The first question he ever asked me
was whether I knew why the word “school”
derives from the Greek word for “leisure.”
I didn’t, but he spent the next four years
teaching me why.

My parents sat with me in orientation
when he told us that no student
would be given an A in his class.

He is the reason why,
the summer I turned seventeen,
I argued with a graduate student
at another university
about Winston Churchill’s My Early Life
and the Boer War.

He once asked a group of us,
“What is the whatness of an acorn?”
And we were his smirking intelligence
when someone finally answered, “A tree.”

He is the late nights spent with John Locke,
early mornings with Machiavelli,
daily life with Plato and Aristotle.

He is the printed report card
my freshman year
sitting on top of my dad’s newspaper —
proof that I had, in fact, earned an A-
in his class.

He is the way we read,
question, wonder,
understand, feel in our very marrow
what it all means:
to be political (social) animals,
to be men and women,
to be Americans,
to be human beings.

He, in his leather jacket and striped button-up,
cowboy boots resting on a desk
littered by Xenophon, Ellison, Lincoln,
laughing with his entire body
and believing with his entire soul.

The last question I’ll ever ask him is,
Do you know?
Do you know what it meant to me,
to us, and to everyone
who has ever had the pleasure
of meeting you,
or of meeting us in turn?
It means everything.

You say you were born American,
but in the wrong place.
Thank God for us —
the timing of your life has been perfectly right.


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The drop in my stomach
felt so sudden and strong
that I was sure noise had accompanied it.
That when I felt it,
everyone heard it.
No one looked at me,
and for that I’m grateful
because I don’t think
I could keep my face from showing
a hint of barely-perceptible crimson.

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One, plus Nine

Most days, I think it’s doable.
To dip my feet into the water
without feeling the need
to just do it already
and jump in head first.

But some days,
I keep inching my legs
deeper and deeper into the water,
just to feel something —
to feel surrounded —
and I can barely keep my grip
on the edge of the dock.

It’s the Some Days
that make me feel
like it really is possible to drown
in only a tablespoon of water —
that I should just walk away
before the water pulls me in
and chokes me.

But it’s also on the Some Days
that I’m able to convince myself
that I can control the elements —
and that if I can’t,
at least I’m a fantastic swimmer.

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