Today's poem is by Wendy Barker

Teaching Mrs. Dalloway I'm Thinking

How I'd like to buy flowers, how I'd like to place a sterling
    silver bowl of peonies or cut-glass vase of tulips and irises
on the laminate seminar table in this windowless room,
    and I'm thinking how I'd like to arrive before the one student
always a half hour early, how I'd like to greet each of them
    at the door, inquire after their sisters and cousins, their tios
and abuelitas, and comfort the one who's been fired
    from his job. Every Tuesday another novel about the modern
condition, those catchy phrases we use: "alienation
    and fragmentation"—while for the past three weeks Jill,
the debate team captain on two scholarships, hasn't said
    a word because, she told me sobbing at the break, her boyfriend
was found bloody in his apartment, shot by her brother
    off his meds, and Angie, dispatching for Pleasure U Hot Line,
her shift moved to graveyard, slumps dozing
    in her chair. Now Jeffrey is saying, "She's snobbish, Clarissa,
I don't like her, who cares about her maids and
    her flowers, but she's right, I mean, she gets it, nothing like
a great party." It's the dinner hour, though no bells chime
    on this campus, and only two of us have actually heard Big Ben,
have ever strolled through Regent's Park, ridden on
    a red double-decker. But nobody around this table wonders
why Septimus hurls himself out the window, nobody
    needs PTSD explained, and when Marita asks, "Wasn't it Woolf
who filled her pockets with stones and walked into
    a river?" nobody says, "Weird," as two dozen heads bend over
pages littered with Post-its. I'm thinking how I want
    to say something, mend this rent in the air the way Clarissa
gathers the raveled threads of her ripped dress with her needle,
    the way she draws everyone into her party, but already it's time
to pack up our pens, our notebooks, head out on the crowded
    interstate, past all the newly constructed buildings with no
balconies, no wrought iron railings, these multiple stories
    of steel and glass, mirrored so no one can see into them.

Copyright © 2009 Wendy Barker All rights reserved
from the Southern Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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