Origins of surrealism
Teaching English for criminals three hundred years ago,
I saw the bottle rocket shoot up the aisle,
and jumped to stomp it dead,
but it exploded without permission, deafening me,
blowing comprehension from the room,
officially announcing my ineptness.
Surprisingly, like a trooper, I recovered with a crinkled grin
and grabbed the offender and marched
him to the office. After what seemed like
a chaotic paperwork filled decade, I returned expecting
weeds three feet tall in my broken classroom.
Instead, students were meek, afraid to meet my eyes,
their doglike humility saying that in my absence
I had grown huge. Their reading of my
fragile demeanor as anger made me smile,
which fed much babble about what had transpired,
and produced giggles, which transformed
them into fresh kids again, not budding felons
flattened and ugly. Together we re-created
the exquisite leap into gunpowder air, and shared
how time stopped when survival was all.
One student mimicked my shocked reptilian expression
before the board, and explained how this frozen
image fit our class definition of irony.
Somehow during the remaining minutes, we
mastered all certified objectives, even as
we paused and reflected on our new warmth,
our sense of ourselves as one whole, amazed how
we had come together in mere minutes
with a negotiated new language, a fresh story,
as we embraced our class movie, each of us
linked by experience, happy to go on.
Mark Vogel has published short stories in Cities and Roads, Knight Literary Journal, Whimperbang, SN Review, and Our Stories. Poetry has appeared in Poetry Midwest, English Journal, Cape Rock, Dark Sky, Cold Mountain Review, Broken Bridge Review and other journals. He is currently Professor of English at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and directs the Appalachian Writing Project.