May 21, 2009

Hughes of an afternoon

It was such a perfect afternoon--so perfect that it even started early, at about 11:30, when I took the first of my three junior classes outside on a poetry walk, just the thing before lunch, and, for that matter, after. Glorious sunshine. Ducks swimming beside the shopping cart in the retention pond. Flag football on the practice field. Middle schoolers smoking on the trails. Scotchbroom waxing.

Students took scrap paper and a pencil, jotting down observations along the way.

Before each jaunt, I'd tell the class we were about to visit the confluence of civilization and nature. To our right, the nouveau-industrial designs of a contemporary high school; to our left, a forest. This led to my favorite exchange, overheard on the trail:
"Smell those flowers?"
"Yeah. Flowers... of nature."
"And just over there is a stump... of nature."
"Yes. And--oh! A dragonfly of nature!"
"No, that's a dragonfly of civilization."
Best of all was the live silence in the fifteen minutes that followed each walk, students scribbling, transmuting their notes into poetry as the ghost of Langston Hughes floated overhead.

No comments: