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Love in the Classroom

Afternoon. Across the garden, in Green Hall,

someone begins playing the old piano —

a spontaneous piece, amateurish and alive,

full of a simple, joyful melody.

The music floats among us in the classroom. 

I stand in front of my students

telling them about sentence fragments.

I ask them to find the ten fragments

in the twenty-one-sentence paragraph on page forty-five.

They’ve come from all parts

of the world — Iran, Micronesia, Africa,

Japan, China, even Los Angeles — and they’re still

eager to please me. It’s less than half

way through the quarter. 

They bend over their books and begin.

Hamid’s lips move as he follows

the tortuous labyrinth of English syntax.

Yoshie sits erect, perfect in her pale make-up,

legs crossed, quick pulse minutely

jerking her right foot. Tony,

from an island in the South Pacific, sprawls

limp and relaxed in his desk. 

The melody floats around and through us

in the room, broken here and there, fragmented,

re-started. It feels Mideastern, but

it could be jazz, or the blues — it could be

anything from anywhere.

I sit down on my desk to wait,

and it hits me from nowhere — a sudden,

sweet, almost painful love for my students. 

“Nevermind,” I want to cry out.

“It doesn’t matter about fragments.

Finding them or not.  Everything’s

a fragment and everything’s not a fragment.

Listen to the music, how fragmented,

how whole, how we can’t separate the music

from the sun falling on its knees on all the greenness,

from this moment, how this moment

contains all the fragments of yesterday

and everything we’ll ever know of tomorrow!” 

Instead, I keep a coward’s silence.

The music stops abruptly;

they finish their work,

and we go through the right answers,

which is to say

we separate the fragments from the whole. 

Al Zolynas spent his boyhood in Australia before coming to the United States when he was 15. He taught in the English department at Alliant University for many years and is a senior Zen practitioner. Many of his poems can be found online. The poem is published by permission. Photo credit: Arlie Zolynas.

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Cedar fire, wary of Clairemont, rooming with my son in North Park, last vacant beachfront lots, building paradise above Rancho Santa Fe

Afternoon. Across the garden, in Green Hall,

someone begins playing the old piano —

a spontaneous piece, amateurish and alive,

full of a simple, joyful melody.

The music floats among us in the classroom. 

I stand in front of my students

telling them about sentence fragments.

I ask them to find the ten fragments

in the twenty-one-sentence paragraph on page forty-five.

They’ve come from all parts

of the world — Iran, Micronesia, Africa,

Japan, China, even Los Angeles — and they’re still

eager to please me. It’s less than half

way through the quarter. 

They bend over their books and begin.

Hamid’s lips move as he follows

the tortuous labyrinth of English syntax.

Yoshie sits erect, perfect in her pale make-up,

legs crossed, quick pulse minutely

jerking her right foot. Tony,

from an island in the South Pacific, sprawls

limp and relaxed in his desk. 

The melody floats around and through us

in the room, broken here and there, fragmented,

re-started. It feels Mideastern, but

it could be jazz, or the blues — it could be

anything from anywhere.

I sit down on my desk to wait,

and it hits me from nowhere — a sudden,

sweet, almost painful love for my students. 

“Nevermind,” I want to cry out.

“It doesn’t matter about fragments.

Finding them or not.  Everything’s

a fragment and everything’s not a fragment.

Listen to the music, how fragmented,

how whole, how we can’t separate the music

from the sun falling on its knees on all the greenness,

from this moment, how this moment

contains all the fragments of yesterday

and everything we’ll ever know of tomorrow!” 

Instead, I keep a coward’s silence.

The music stops abruptly;

they finish their work,

and we go through the right answers,

which is to say

we separate the fragments from the whole. 

Al Zolynas spent his boyhood in Australia before coming to the United States when he was 15. He taught in the English department at Alliant University for many years and is a senior Zen practitioner. Many of his poems can be found online. The poem is published by permission. Photo credit: Arlie Zolynas.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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