The Lesson

I suppose he'd asked me
what I got from all those books.
I suppose he'd watched me watch
his withered arm, wing-like and trembly,
as if held invisibly in a sling,
while I scrubbed dull green walls,
college-boy summer help, and his crew
buffed the long floors.

When he beckoned to me,
jerking his rubbery neck,
when he asked, Wanna try?
I know I must've had the thought:
if he can do it...

In my dumb hands, the buffer jumped
alive, pulled me stumbling while it 
chewed up one wall then the other,
racing unrestrained until he could
reach the switch. 
I bowed my head to take
the old men's laughter falling
softly on my shoulders: an abrasive
knowledge, like sunburn.

Later on, they've must've showed me how--
that part's wiped out, polished
clean along with names and faces.
Of course shame always sticks
and shines up to a nice glow even now. 
In the warm surface, I recall
the uselessnes of two good hands,
how a machine is different from a book.

If I could, I'd tell him I'd go on to learn
the luck in any invitation to that startling dark
where I don't know what I don't know.
I'd say, my life will take zigazg course
that comes out into moments
where I teach, just like you.


                                                                Scott Lowery