Well-dressed, demure, jammed into those
politely arranged desks, it's hard to be
serious, but we are. No one even parts lips
to acknowledge what used to drive us crazy
in the back seats of cars, what kept us up
half the night reliving the last slow dance,
girl on her toes, guy bent at the knees
to press in against her.
The instructors speak precisely about
the importance of our children knowing the facts,
so surely none of us in our high heels and
neck ties is going to admit how our first mistakes
have suddenly blossomed so tender and lovely
we've been forgiven a thousand times,
a thousand times forgiven and repeated ourselves.
But fingering the graffiti on this desk,
I remember being braille to you, being read
like a steamy novel, and how those lessons
stayed with us, practical as driver's ed, those hours
of simulation behind the wheel of a parked car.
The truth is I don't regret having studied with you
though I do feel inarticulate, like an athlete
asked to speak in a room of kids, who has nothing
to say except, "practice, practice."
Once our daughter watched the cat in heat
yowl and slither across the floor, and without
looking up asked, would that happen to her. Sometimes
it isn't shame that makes us speechless. It's not
regret that makes me linger at the curb watching
her toss back her yellow hair and yank open
the heavy doors to school.
— Betsy Sholl
from The Red Line, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992
We don't need lists
of rights and wrongs,
tables of do's and don'ts:
we need books, time, and silence.
~ Philip Pullman