Come To My Class

“The person in whom… invisible agony reaches a certain unendurable level will kill herself the same way a trapped person will eventually jump from the window of a burning high rise.  Make no mistake about people who leap from burning windows. Their terror of falling from a great height is still just as great as it would be for you or me… the fear of falling remains a constant.  The variable here is the other terror, the fire’s flames: when the flames get close enough, falling to death becomes the slightly less terrible of two terrors. It’s not desiring the fall; it’s terror of the flames.” -David Foster Wallace

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I have one hundred and twenty nine students.

At least nine of them have, as far as I can tell, 

openly contemplated harming themselves or ending their own lives.

At least nine of them, as far as I can tell, considered this the essential fact of their lives - 

so much so that, being allowed to tell a prospective university anything 

about themselves, 

given the freedom to make any identity statement that they wanted,

they chose to say this.

This poem is for them and for anyone who feels like they do.

If nothing else, come to my class.

I will give you an extension.

I will offer full credit.

I will waive the work.

If you like class discussion, debate daily.

If you don’t, you don’t have to.

Come to my class.

It is better here.

It is not burning.

Come to my class.

Post something on the wall that makes you smile.

I’m not picky.

Justin Bieber is on my wall.  A photograph of a bird with lips is on my wall.  The grill of an old truck is on my wall.

I won’t say no.

Bring something that used to make you smile - a boy band, an inspirational quote, a coloring page.

Bring something that used to make you smile because it is evidence that you have smiled.

Bring a white page on which you inscribe an unusual word.

Here’s one - apoptosis.

Apoptosis is the natural death of the cells that occurs in order for organisms to grow.

You never knew that word existed, did you?

Well, there are people in this world you have never met too.  And places.

There are words you imagine that will never be spoken to you that will be spoken to you.

There are words you don’t know you need to hear that you will one day hear.

It is possible for things to exist that you cannot now contemplate.

Not here, not in this moment, not when it’s burning.

It is okay to let your cells die.  But let them die so you can grow.

Grow.

Come to my class.

There are other worlds here.

Each poem is a place for hiding and exploring.  Each poem is a place where boys turn to rainbows, where fathers wake early and stay late, where lovers outlive summers, where giant statues fall though we remain to see them all.

Come to my class and meet Hamlet.

He was a pretty confused kiddo too.  To be or not to be. He questioned. Question with him.

Come to my class.

Come to my class and meet Harry Potter and Hercules.  Heroes.

Remember that you are standing where they stood, at the start of a long road with uncertain curves and unclear endings.  

Bend your road on purpose.  Put curves in it. Make the ending uncertain.

I’ll help you.

Hear me when I tell you Joseph Campbell’s quote, that the adventure you receive 

is the one for which you are ready.

You are ready for this.

You are the hero of your own story.

Dare the flames.

Come to my class.

Because I came to class and then one day I stopped coming to class.
And I know that when I stopped coming to class

Is when I nearly sailed off the edge of the earth.

is when I looked too long at window ledges.

is when I walked along a curb and understood

the slight space between myself 

and the end of myself.

Come to my class 

because I have a daughter your age.

Because I have a daughter and she is precious

And the thought of losing her is negative space -

Emptiness defined by what it refuses to say.

And you are someone’s son or someone’s daughter.

In my class, learn about metaphor

and know that that someone may not be your actual mother or father.

That someone might be your brother, your best friend, your classmate who has never spoken to you but idolizes you 

while you are unaware.

Your teacher.

Your teacher who reads your writing and wants to be a metaphor,

a mirror so that you can see yourself

in all the wonder and glorious power of your youth.

It is why he plays you poems about being dragons

So that you can author your own inferno.

You are someone’s most precious thing.

You are someone’s heart’s fire.

Your absence would be unbearable.

And, if that is not enough,

come to my class.

I have candy in the bottom right-hand drawer of my desk.

It does not have to be your birthday.

You do not have to say the magic words.

I will give it away for free

if only to remind you for today, 

so that you can get to 

tomorrow,

that there is sweetness

more than flames.

This poem is about: 
Me
My community

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