Archives for posts with tag: teaching

By Taylor Mali

I walked into the classroom and straight to my chair,
But when I reached for my pen, it just wasn’t there!
I had no pen! or crayon! or pencil!
I was stuck before class without a writing utensil.

I could have asked the teacher (if I had dared,)
But I knew she would have said, “You’re unprepared!”
So to be diplomatic and avoid the fight
I quickly turned to the girl on my right,

Do you possibly have a pen I could borrow?
I’ll use it today and have it back by tomorrow.
“Oh! Furshur! What kind? I’ve got plenty.”
And she turned around with a handful of twenty.

I really don’t care what color or style,
I’ll take the fountain pen, I said with a smile.
“Oh, you don’t want that one. It comes out all ugly.
And it’s made of pure gold,” she said to me smugly.

Then how bout the blue?
“No, that one hops.”
Okay, maybe the green?
“Comes out in glops.”
“I’m afraid it’s having trouble connecting.”
“I’ll need it if we do any in-class correcting.”
Look, I said, my voice filling with fear,
Just gimme a pen before the teacher gets here!

“But this one always comes out in tons,
The yellow one skips and the purple one runs.
When the brown one dries, it looks real icky,
And the orange one’s covered with something sticky.
This one’s for emergencies (in case I get confused)
‘cause it’s clean and it’s fresh and it’s never been used.
I keep this one for quizzes ‘cause it brings good luck,
And the ballpoint’s splotchy and the cap is stuck.
This one’s empty, with the silver band,
And the felt-tip will leak all over your hand.
This one’s cracked, and that’s gone berserk!
And that would be perfect but it doesn’t work.
But here! Take this one! This one’s fine!
Oh wait…I’m sorry, this one’s mine.”
I think she went on but I couldn’t have cared.
I decided it was better to go unprepared.


Visit poet Taylor Mail at his website See him read “On Girls Lending Pens” at

Photo: My Life as a Bargainista, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

by LeeAnne McIlroy Langton

I noticed that most of my students
Were gazing longingly out the window
On an unusually beautiful
Southern California morning
I paused in my lecture to discover
That they were collectively noticing the unusual fruit
Exploding on the tree just outside our window
“What kind of fruit is that?”
They wondered with more curiosity than
They had ever shown for Plato or Rousseau
And so I told them about the pomegranate
How according to the Q’uran, it filled the gardens of paradise
How its image had once adorned the temples of Solomon
How it doomed Persephone to Hades
How it symbolizes prosperity and fertility in Hinduism
How it came here to us:
From the Iranian Plateaus to Turkey
Across the Mediterranean and transported across the oceans
By the Spanish conquistadors
How the city of Kandahar—now bombed and ravaged—
Was once reputed to have the finest pomegranates in the world
I told them that this was my favorite tree
And then we all went outside for a moment—
To marvel at this tree
Just staring for a moment
While the wind blew
Across our faces, a tender caress across the ages
And then the moment was gone—
The next day I walked into class
And someone, anonymously, had placed a single pomegranate
On my desk at the front of the class,
An altar before thirty students,
All newly baptized—
The red stain of pomegranate seeds outlining
Their smiles

Illustration: “Pomegranate Tree,” watercolor by Karina Zlotnikov, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


“A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others. It is the key, or one of the keys, to the already solved problems. And not only so. It gives a relish and facility for successfully pursuing the unsolved ones.”


PHOTO: President Abraham Lincoln and his 11-year-old son Tad, 1864