For Cory Howell
Teaching high school these 5 years reminds me
of an impressive statistic from my profession, that half of us
won’t make it past 5 years, and data is just data
until a friend breathes those numbers to life.
Mine searched two school districts for the greener pastures
and recently made my statistic complete: I
the 50% still teaching Thoreau to those unconscious; he
the half that left for a job as a Kubota retail associate
selling sonnets back to Shakespeare
tractors back to Steinbeck.
In a sense he is practicing what we taught of Whitman:
“If you want me again, look for me under your boot-soles” or
at least under the zero-turn demo
mowing over Leaves of Grass alone
in the greenest of possible pastures.
I see the appeal from my classroom window.
The county maintenance crew mows the
school grounds between me and the unsheared
outdoors of his horizon. If indeed my daydreams
grow the grass, rest assured this imagination is
job security enough.
When alone and stuffy, I open my desk window
to the breeze brought by these dreams and invite in
the machinery shining with droning hums of blue
collar sweat in distant song.
But as students return from lunch, the Kubotas
steer in closer, as if to offer another spring’s possibility
of trimming away my retirement plan as the bell rings.
This taunting turns back and forth just outside, neither
missing an inch of envy nor leaving a strand of regret,
but mostly distracting students from my lesson, so once again
I must close my classroom to the thought of it.
Seth Grindstaff is a creative writing teacher residing among the hills of northeast Tennessee. His poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Sheila-Na-Gig, The Dead Mule, Forbidden Peak Press, Edify Fiction, and has also been honored at the John Fox Jr literary festival in VA. He spends his time alongside his sun-loving wife and foster children.