from The Teacher's Voice
2009/10 Chapbook Contest Winner

Disrupting Consensus

Michael S. Glaser






How Do I Know, Yakusan?


“But what is the meaning

of the red wheel-barrow

glazed with rainwater?”


a student who wanted to know, asked


and the professor did not scoff

or profess but silently looked around

for someone who would respond

someone, perhaps, who had read Pound

and knew about imagism, or maybe even

the Chinese ideogram, someone, if nothing else,

who had at least lived on a farm. . .


and, the professor thought, if there were no response

to the invitation of his silence,

then he might ask another question,


but what happened was the visitor:

a high school senior who had shaved her head

and was thinking of matriculating

to the professor’s college –


and she raised her hand, and when the professor nodded,

she asked, “isn’t the meaning of the red wheelbarrow

the same as the meaning of the cypress tree in the courtyard?”


And the professor  paused    

and the students in the class

looked at each other


and then the bell rang

its own invitation,
and what do you suppose happened next?





“A human work is nothing other than a lengthy journey
to recover by the detours of art the two or three simple and great
images by which the heart was first opened.”

                                                                       ....Albert Camus



Professors now, we no longer 

flip through the pages of Playboy,

but open instead works of poetry,

searching for the delights of form

and imagination, the naked truth,

the excitement of our youth:


“Look!  Here!  See how this works!”

We exclaim about the symbol, the metaphor,

the allusions to Dante or Desdemona

as though we were young again


sitting on the street corner with our friends,

studying the pages of our fathers’ magazines

exclaiming together, “Look!  Here! The lines!

The shape!   Amazing!” 


-- phrases we had heard, and would try on,

preparation, perhaps, for our professing

with such insistence that what we see

is what there is to see,


truth and beauty,

spread out before our minds,

the outer and inner eye,
both seeing, both blind.