Verse > Anthologies > Alfred Kreymborg, ed. > Others for 1919
Alfred Kreymborg, ed.  Others for 1919.  1920.
By Haniel Long
SHE sweeps in like the moon goddess,
and she has never studied
her lessons;
and when I flunk her
I feel that I am flunking Diana.        5
I have great faith in this boy—
he makes me think of mountains.
Every now and then
he looms in the rear of the room
like a peak in the Andes:        10
but how would you like to teach
a peak in the Andes?
There are some who turn my class-room
into a morgue,
and I find this hard;        15
but he turns my class-room
into a rathskeller
with his face and his talk and his ways.
Therefore I prize him.
She has a discontented face
until she smiles.
Perhaps she would like to smile all the time,
and thinks I will not permit it.
He has a certain look in his eye—
a look I have seen before.        25
All men of one idea
have this look;
they go to the stake,
to the torture-chamber,
with this in their eye.        30
I know what the boy’s idea is,
and I live in fear
that others may discover it, and for it
somehow crucify him.
Sometimes I have nervous moments—
there is a girl who looks at me strangely
as much as to say,
You are a young man,
and I am a young woman,
and what are you going to do about it?        40
And I look at her as much as to say,
I am going to keep the teacher’s desk between us, my dear,
as long as I can.
There is a smell not of the city about him,
as though his pockets were stuffed        45
with chestnuts, or apples,
or as though he had been working
in hay or straw;
and he smells faintly of animals, too,
of dogs and of horses;        50
and there is a vague smell of gunpowder about him,
and a vague smell of tobacco;
and behind all these smells
is a miraculous distance
of river and field and wood,        55
all in the smell of out-doors.
She looks at me
as though I were a stone wall
between her and heaven—
whereas I try to be        60
a window for her,
and a door, a gate, a ladder, an elevator—
yet she will not look through,
or leap through,
or fly through,        65
or do anything but stare.
A little cherubino comes in
when the class is all over,
and says she is so sorry,
that my class is such an inspiration,        70
and such a queer sensation,
but ten-thirty is an early hour,
and the street-car service poor.
And I tell her softly, that in heaven
the street-car service is always poor,        75
but the good little angels rise up early
and get to school on time.
And she says, “O, thank you,”
so effusively.
The first day I didn’t see her,
nor the second, nor the third,
and when at last I saw her,
I hardly noticed her.
Yet this girl has gone through a tragedy
fighting those who had to be fought,        85
and nursing those who needed nursing.
And you would never guess it,
except for a queer little line at her lips
and her eyes, that are blue as steel,
blue as a dagger, blue as a quiet lake.        90
To do one’s best and to fail
is disaster enough;
but it is worse to remember
how one might have done more.
It is too late—he has gone;        95
and nothing I can do
will bring him back to me,
will give me another chance with him,
not that I think it would have mattered.
She needs a more exotic air to blossom in—
clash of cymbals should precede her elephant
down the street to school—
she should be black from head to toes,
wearing barbaric jewels—
and now that I think of it,        105
why couldn’t she come through my class-room window
on the elephant’s trunk?
She regards me haughtily
as perhaps Mrs. Siddons
regarded the third George—        110
and after all, why should she not?
But I live in terror of hearing her say,
In that tragical voice of hers, some day,
Bid me, out, out, damned spot.
She says, If writing were like dancing,
then I could bring my dreams.
And I ask her what has lighter feet
than a dancing word?
and what speeds faster, what lasts longer
than a dance of phrases        120
down a page to far music?
She does not answer.
He is the only one who ever dared
sit on my sacred desk
and rumple my sacred hair.        125
Yet he is the only one
who ever cared to carry my books
and call me “Maestro” in public.
And whenever I said a clever thing
he would exclaim, “Priceless, priceless!”        130
All he sees is the dollar sign,
and he suspects me
of wasting his time.
O for some clever accountant
to compute my cash value—        135
for then I could write dollar signs
across the blackboard behind me,
and he would pay strict attention
and make little entries
in a little ledger.        140
She is hungry for dreams;
without them she will perish.
But I fear she turns away
from the only dream that lasts
and gives her precious youth        145
to the dreams that go in an hour.
We have given him a mask,
we parents and teachers,
and to please us
he writes moral axioms in a little book        150
and debates with himself continually
whether he lives the nobler life.
Nevertheless, great blood is his.
He is of the kin of Rigoletto,
Sancho Panza is his comrade,        155
Touchstone his uncle;
and he goes sedately down the path of pierrot
arm in arm with harlequin.
When our eyes meet
I go cold to my feet.        160
Some day I shall forget my necktie,
and on that day, proud and reproachful,
she will point her finger at me—
and the walls of my world
will tumble.        165

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