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Monthly Archives: February 2013
I am painting a broad red stripe
On a wall in the church outside the room
Where the ladies quilting guild is meeting.
My work requires no skill, just
A can of paint, a tray and a roller.
It’s a big dumb job.
As I roll on red enamel
I hear them murmuring as they work
Cooing like doves,
Most of their words indistinct
Although a few float out to the hall,
“Kidney,” “grandchildren,” and “visit.”
I peek into the room to see them
Bent over quilt squares, embroidery, counted cross stitch
Faces relaxed as they talk and ply their skilled needles.
I do my dumb painting
While they are stitching their lives together.
And, to be sure, there are young people who don’t do squat. I once had a student whose avowed purpose in life was to “slack.’ And slack he did. He worked after school in a bakery, a job that takes a concerted effort to slack off.. Some of my other students worked with him and said, yes, he was slacker and created work for everyone else with his dedication to slacking.
This situation reminds me of the old joke about the man who owned a boomerang. He became very upset one day and made an appointment with a psychiatrist. When they met, the man was obviously agitated. “Tell me what is troubling you,” the psychiatrist said.
“It’s my boomerang,” the man answered.
“Yes, I keep trying to throw it away but it keeps coming back.”
I told you it was an old joke. And also not a very good one. But I was thinking of it a couple of weeks ago when I tried to throw an old trash can away.
I put it out beside the main trash can since that was too full to put the discarded trash can into the main can.
The nice trash people didn’t take it.
The next week, I did put it into the main trash can. They carefully left it by the curb.
I’m glad they’re careful to not throw away something that might be useful. But I didn’t want the trash can any more. It was dirty and ripped up. So, I did what I should have done in the first place, and put it into a trash bag. The trash people took it. End of story.
Life continues to have lessons to teach us, if only we look for them. I wish I had a nice aphorism to sum this up, but I don’t. Sigh.
Teaching Irony through Poetry
(for Mary G., who understood irony and so much else)
A Poem in the Form of a Dialogue between Teacher and Students
Teacher: “Robert Frost’s ‘Mending Wall’
Has an excellent example of the use of irony.
Since you’ve all read it for homework
Where is the irony in the poem?”
Student: “In the title?”
T: “Good guess, but no. Keep trying.”
T: “Any other ideas?”
T: “What about the neighbor’s statement, ‘Good fences make
Good neighbors?’ “
S: “That’s not ironic; it’s true.”
T: “Do you think Frost believed that it was true?”
S: “Can we ask him?”
T: “No; hes dead.”
T: “Yes, well, it happens to the best of us. Now, what if I told you that he believed the opposite?”
S: “That good fences make bad neighbors?”
T: “Yes, something like that.”
S: “That’s not true–our neighbor has a dog that digs up our flowers and pees all over the lawn. My parents have asked them to put up a good fence to keep the dog out. They won’t, so aren’t they bad neighbors?”
T: “Sounds like it.”
S: “So: no fences make bad neighbors. Good fences would make good neighbors where there’s an untrained dog involved.”
S: “So what was irony again?”
T: “Let’s try that another day. I’ve had too much fun today.”
S: “You always say that. Do you mean it?”
T: “Oh, yes.” With all my heart.
(Based on a number of dialogues with students over the years)