Life Cycle of the Teenager part 1

High school's almost over
    and with it the fond memories
        of a hellish childhood
    and the agonizing tedium
        of having fun.
I heave my bookbag for the last time
    into overly spacious classrooms
        with bad climate control
    onto careworn graffitized desks
        that nobody will ever tell apart.

Outside, the bell rings (or beeps)
    and people who have stopped to talk
        or make love in the hallway
    reorganize their priorities
        and run to class.
I waste some pleasurable time talking to the girl next to me,
    who can't understand me
        --that's OK, it's mutual--
    and I wonder what common, noble purpose
        2100 teen-agers can share.

One by one, my dearly tolerated teachers
    from the well-forgotten past
        to the near-forgotten present
    lift their aged and young faces
        to speak to all thirty of me.
To some I was a name, to most a memorable face;
    to two or three, a person
        of macroscopic potential
    with whom it was their duty,
        not their job, to communicate.

My job?  My job was to submit--
    to "be educated" in the style
        ripped off from the Greeks--
    about which, knowing nothing else,
        I probably can't complain.
It's definitely true that I have learned
    a great deal about
        what they wanted us to learn,
    and that I think much more clearly now
        when thinking of Chaucer or calculus.

I can go through life confidently assertive
    of the characteristics
        of a tragic hero,
    and knowing that the derivative
        of velocity is acceleration.
But why isn't there a high-school philosophy course?
    Who's going to tell me when I
        have BECOME a tragic hero,
    or whether my life is accelerating
        to higher or lower velocity?

Chalk dust and blunt pencils have taught me the Golden Facts;
    brunettes have taught me values; and friends
        have un-taught my mistakes by example.
    They say it takes a wise man to know his own ignorance--
        (Pssst!  What chapter were we on when we covered that?)
My favorite teachers have always been the English teachers:
    No, really!  They pointed me to the literature
        that REALLY taught me how to think.
    But my greatest debt to them is that never, in all their form and style,
        did any of them ever tell me how to write this poem.

I can't wait
    to get out of here.
Stephen F. Eley (
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