By contributing writer John Peugeot
Okay class, settle down. I said settle down, I don’t want to have to say it again, capiche? My name is Mr. De Luca and I’m your substitute for… what class is this? Poetry?! Jesus Christ! Why do they always stick me with the poetry? It’s unbelievable. You think I could get a P.E. once in a while. A civics class or something. I’d even take biology over this. All right, all right, get out your homework… quickly, come on, I don’t got all day. You think I want to watch my youth disappear while you guys fuddle around with papers. Let’s GO!
All right, this is how we’re going to take roll: everyone come up and print their name—and it better be legible, I don’t want any of that tiny-cursive junk on this sheet of paper. If, so help me God, you print the name of your buddy who’s cutting class today, I swear to the heavens, I will find out and then find you. And it will not be pretty, capiche? You guys know what a kneecapping is? Look it up. You might find it interesting.
William? Willy Carlos? Whatcha got for us, huh? I want you to blow my mind with some of that poetry. Speak some beauty, let’s go. I ain’t got all day.
LOUDER, buddy. Louder.
so much depends upon
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Okay, what was that? Did you write that junk two minutes before class or what? Are you seriously trying to pull something like that over on me? You gotta do better than that, Willy. I’m from the neighborhood. You think I don’t know those tricks? C+. And you’re lucky I’m such a nice guy. That weren’t no beauty.
Who else we got? Okay, T.S., you better have something to top Williams or you’re going to be S.O.L. Understand those initials? Let’s hear it, swish.
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question . . .
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go,
Talking of Michelangelo…
Okay, stop right there. What is going on in here today? You all can’t write some beauty? You’re just rhyming words to rhyme. Go and Michelangelo? Don’t do that to me, don’t you dare. You know that stuff makes me angry and the State says I got issues with anger. You guys know that.
Now, somebody better have some calming, beautiful poetry cuz I’m about to punch something. What’d you just say, Byron? Speak up, son. What’s a matter, feeling shy? Yeah, I thought so. You’re going to be feeling a whole lot worse in a minute if you keep it up, got it?
All right, Whitty, my Boy. I know you got something good. I remember the last time I subbed here you had one about a Captain. I liked that one. Now, read me something and make it good, capiche?
The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane
whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving dinner,
The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are ready,
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordain'd with cross'd hands at the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case,
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's bed-room;)
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco while his eyes blurr with the
The malform'd limbs are tied to the surgeon's table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the auction-stand, the drunkard nods by the bar-room stove,
The machinist rolls up his sleeves, the policeman travels his beat, the gate-keeper marks who pass,
The young fellow drives the express-wagon, (I love him, though I do not know him;)…
Enough. Finito. Walt, you’re just listing things. And I’m not even going to comment on the loving guys stuff. That’s just not how things are done in my neighborhood. That young fellow driving the express wagon through my neighborhood? Forget about it. He’s done. Sling-shot to the temple. Ba-boom. Divvy up the loot. How’s that sound to you, Walt? Huh? Loverboy on the ground bleeding out his head, while a dozen full-blooded Italians make off with his stuff. That make a pretty good poem to you guys? Somebody write that one up for next week. I’m no good with pens and stuff. Can’t use ‘em for anything.
Now, listen up, I’m going go take a smoke and sandwich break, and say hi to that new teacher, Miss Bremmer. You kids sit here and don’t make peep, capiche? If I hear one sound coming from this room, I swear to Almighty God, I’m going to bust in here and tie somebody’s limbs to their desk. I’ll staple fingers, cuff you with rulers, whatever I need to do to get you to behave. That’s what they pay me for.
And let me tell you something else, somebody better write some good poetry by the time I get back or you’s all can forget about it, capiche?
Hey, anybody know Miss Bremmer’s first name?