Mr. L.

by Leonard M Hawkes


In the front along the board
Were scrappy pictures
Of some place in Europe--

A fortress-looking bridge with a gate,
A slimy canal reflecting a tower,
A small medieval-looking church--

Parts of his life, perhaps;
Surely, places he knew:
A lost love?
A maintained diminishing flame?

--Shrine to life just
Not quite left behind.


Either a scout or some soldier
Leftover from the early Nineteen-teens,
He graced the front of the room
Unframed, but matted in red--
Somber-looking, stolid, immovable--

Not far from pictures of Beethoven and Schiller,
Near the autumnal poster which read,

"The beginning of wisdom
Is silence."


Beside his phone was a leaders list,
Emergency numbers,
A prom poster,
And a calendar from Switzerland.

In the corner, a walking stick
Below a wide brimmed, dusty hat,
And two pictures of Utrecht and Dordrecht.

But most prominent
Was an angular black paper tree,
"Modeled after his grandmother's plum tree," he said.

"Freud euch des Lebens,"
We often sang, and wondered about
The possible sinister significance
Of "das Lämpchen."


It was probably the biggest book
I'd ever seen--brown and red,
The cover looked like leather--
"It was here when I came,"
He always answered,
"Belonged to 'Bucky Morris,'
Who could have taught my mother."

It was too big to use.
I always thought that definitions
Would have changed in that much time.

But he seemed to find some value
In still just having it
On the shelf.


They weren't Fuchsia
But he called them fuchsia,
Those geraniums in the west windows,

"Grown from cuttings from the wild ones
That grow on Santa Catalina."

(The change in soil had somehow changed the color.)
--Stumpy in October,
--Leggy in April, but

In between they seemed to thrive,
As we all did,
With frost on the windows, and
Snow piled deep a mere glass pane's thickness


We called it a "giant bong."
He called it an "Alpenhorn."
It collected dust above the shelves that held
The Britannica's, and the 1980 editions
Of Adventures in American Literature.

"But we'll play it on May Day," he'd say.

And we passed it around the circle,
Exhaling laboriously with tightly pursed lips,
Hoping for some kind of magic.


The Nightwatch hung between the windows:
Yellow and brown, faded-red,
Gray that might have been blue or green.

"One you should know," he'd always say,
Then tell us how the guards rushed toward him,
As he stepped off the Persian runner
To take an even closer look.


Behind my desk he'd smeared indigo water paint
On seven-foot strips of butcher paper.

But from the hall it was his Tetons--
Viewed from the northeast,
A limber pine and big sagebrush
In the foreground--



Author's Note: the classroom

Posted on 04/11/2008
Copyright © 2024 Leonard M Hawkes

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