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PACKING UP THE CLASSROOM
I’m amazed at television programs
when some executive gets the boot
and moments later he’s gathered
all of his personal belongings
in a single cardboard box. I cannot
for the life of me imagine a box
large enough to carry all that I
need to pack-up in this classroom.
Maybe that’s where the difference lies.
The business man only carries out
what he’s carried in. On the other hand
I’m weighted by a thousand little gifts—
lop-sided pottery, framed photographs
of class picnics, faces of students
whose names I can’t recall. I see their
thumbprints in the clay, their smiles
before the world gets them. There is
a drum I bang when we read Beowulf,
a cane from a Mexican spring-break
used as a pointer, a motley ragdoll
for voodoo pins in the Crucible.
What do I carry out with me, the old
barber chair with the weakened hydraulics,
the armadillo shell filled with drying markers?
In the end I take my photograph
of my father in his baseball uniform,
the Hindu elephant from the girl
with epilepsy, the Bible I lifted
from a motel after my wrestlers
destroyed their room? I need a box
deep enough to surprise me, deeper
than what I can remember.
Al Ortolani was born in Huntington, New York and grew up in Pittsburg, Kansas. He was educated at Pittsburg State University and for the past 41 years has taught in Kansas schools in Baxter Springs, Pittsburg and Overland Park (Blue Valley) as well as an adjunct at Pittsburg State University. He is the author of six collections of poetry, including Paper Birds Donít Fly (NYQ, í16)