The Geometry Teacher

I remember the dour
depleted gray demeanor
and vaguely mischievous
smile on the face of that
invariably constant man
who peered at us over a
portable podium he used
to perch as an elderly
bird of prey teaching
geometry at the pale green
high school built by
Depression era labor taking
sanctioned cigarette breaks
to inhale Lucky Strikes with
contemplative repose.
A high school was being built.
This was important work --
a big deal.

Some of us felt like classical
Greeks on the first days of the
first year of High School
coming to class with our
footsteps striking the
polished hardwood floors
and echoing along the
cavernous hallways.
We were prepared to confidently
absorb the elementary concepts
taught by the constant Euclid who
dryly paraded the solid theorems
as toy blocks meant for
the entertainment of children
and never was he upset
about any of our failings
involving apathy or laziness or
spontaneous loquaciousness.
He attributed the transgressions
in the classroom to the
day of the week.
"I didn't get that one," a student
would say who did not
get any of the homework problems
done at all. "Well, it's Tuesday," the
dour Euclid would respond, his
mischievous smile becoming
decidedly sour. Or it would be
Monday or Thursday and of course
Friday that would be to blame.
I was grateful for being able
to blame Tuesday once
toward the end of the year
to the collective shocked
gasp of the entire class .
Tuesday went on with my footsteps
striking those hardwood
floors and echoing as other footsteps
echoed there since the end
of the Great Depression.
Euclid stood at the door
of his classroom monitoring
the mob choked hallway wearing
his complete dark baggy suit
as a tired bird of prey and
watched the constant echoing
procession of the conflicted,
pampered, tragic adolescents passing
through the days of their angular
week one way or another with
mounting cynicism, earning marks
through some mysterious
process in his grade book.
Everybody passed.

It was common knowledge
that the geometry teacher
had been promoted to
the rank of Admiral
in the big war but this fact
was not the source of much
conversation. It was many
years later along the geometry
of my life that I thought
one Wednesday to discover
details about the old Admiral
with the benefit of the internet.
Turns out he commanded a
submarine and had attacked
several Japanese destroyers
in surface action then diving
and surviving a vicious
depth charge attack. He
sunk several Japanese ships
in later patrols then was
relieved to train sub commanders
at Pearl Harbor. I found an
archival photograph of the
Admiral as a Lieutenant with
the dour expression and
vaguely mischievous smile
under the Missouri eyes which
I recognized immediately.
It was Thursday when I
pulled up the photograph
again, stood at attention
in front of the computer screen
and saluted him.

Today is Saturday.




Poetry by Peter J. Kautsky
Read 872 times
Written on 2008-04-15 at 03:17

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Esti D-G The PoetBay support member heart!
Excellent memoir of schooldays and I loved your idea " the geometry of my life".
luvestix
2008-04-25


SecretWords The PoetBay support member heart!
Oh! You got me inspired to write a poem of my french teacher now :P

That means that this is kew poem :D

*bookmarked*
2008-04-17



I read it when Thursday was only a few minutes old, and I found it a thoroughly good text!
2008-04-17


she
I'm sure he's real proud that someone made his geography history;)
2008-04-15


Elle The PoetBay support member heart!
What an excellent text, somehow as children, we don't think of our teachers as having any life outside of the classroom, so to then discover the bravery and richness of a life that hitherto we never thought about is wonderful, thank you for this Peter, I was captivated from start to finish reading this

Elle x
2008-04-15


Kathy Lockhart The PoetBay support member heart!
i don't know but I think he would be proud of you today. And, perhaps, salute you back for such a wonderful text. All my senses were alive in this one. Thanks so much for sharing this here. : )
2008-04-15


Rob Graber
A war hero going through life incognito as an unassuming geometry teacher--an enjoyable and thought-provoking write!
2008-04-15