Back when I was in high school, I always found myself in the “accelerated” English classes. Seeing as how I was surrounded with all the “smart” kids, I have to assume that the school employed some rational basis to select students for these classes. In my case, it had to be my standardized test scores that landed me in this academically high-powered group, for I was the ultimate underachiever in high school. I was way too busy playing in a band, being a fraternity president (we had them in high school), hanging out, and thinking of goofy stuff to be bothered with things like homework.
I recall one occasion when the teacher, apparently seeking to tap into the well of creativity that she believed the class to have, gave us an assignment to write a poem and to be prepared to read it to the class the following day. I treated this much like I treated the assignments from my other classes. I simply did not do it, figuring that luck, or divine inspiration would carry me through the next day.
When the next day rolled around, I showed up for class wondering how I would finesse not having done my homework. The teacher (a wonderful woman, I might add) began to call names of students to read their poems. And, read them they did.
It was apparent that all the other students had spent a considerable amount of time on the assignment. Most wrote poems about love, relationships and nature. Some wrote poems that rhymed, while others wrote meandering free verse, the meaning of which eluded me then, and often eludes me now.
The teacher was working her way through the seating chart, and there were only two or three more poems to be read before I would be called on. What to do?
Not being able to dream up a credible excuse for not having done the asignment (I pretty much had used them all up), I took pen in hand and composed a poem, then and there. I finished it at the very second that the teacher called my name. I seem to recall that the student who recited just before me had read a long poem about a springtime walk through the woods, which the teacher loved. Damn!
I took a deep breath and strode to the front of the classroom. I put my sheet of three-hole-punched loose leaf paper on the lectern, and recited the following:
There once was a girl named Sue
who resembled a moth-eaten gnu.
She had a long nose
that hung twixt her toes,
and varicose veins made it blue.
The teacher was not amused.
I like to think that she lacked a keen eye for literary genius.