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Poetry and Teaching English in the Two-Year College

During National Poetry Month, we will be posting poems that originally ran in one of the ten journals published by NCTE. This poem “OF ESSAYS AND EIGHT BALL” by Rick Kempa comes from Teaching English in the Two-Year College:

OF ESSAYS AND EIGHT BALL

She chalks her cue and swaggers towards me.
“Look hard,” she says. “Do you remember me?”
“Yeah, sure, you were in my class, when was it,
eight, ten years ago?” “Nineteen ninety nine.”
“Forgive me,” I say, “You’ll have to help me
with your name.”

Leona, of course! How good
it must feel to kick my butt, killing me slowly
the way I did you when I kept your essays too long,
trying to justify a C-minus, or groping for words
to dull the anvil blow of a D. (Funny how,
when all else fades, a grade persists like
a bad tattoo.)

She hunkers down, nails a combo,
takes a swig, and, grinning, sidles up to me.
“So what did you think of my last paper?”
“Well, I, uh . . . ” “Wasn’t that a kick-ass title page?”
Ah yes, now I remember, how the words arced
in 3-D script above a perfectly-centered
red syringe.

“I am telling you, that was the
best damn title page I have ever seen and
believe me I’ve seen a lot,” I say, and we
touch bottles in honor of the sentence fragment
and the scratch shot, the cue ball that soars into
a knot of drunks and the prose that falls flat,
the eight ball that threads the needle,
kisses the cushion, and topples safely home,
and title pages that stand the test of time.

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