Sixth Grade, 1978

For David Stoeri

Mr. Stoeri
wore crooked ties
and mismatched socks,
his untamed brown curls
pillow-flattened on one side,
and daily brown corduroys worn thin by March.
He strummed the banjo and sang
One Tin Soldier,
If Wishes Were Changes,
The Squid Jiggers

as we sat cross-legged, joyfully gaping,
awaiting his big nod to follow.
Above us the ceiling drooped with fish nets,
stuffed creatures improbably named
Sweet Honey,
Dr. Bob—
trapped by stories.
And in the corner stood a
garage sale altar
for records and a suitcase turntable.
Saturday Night Fever? America?
We bickered about our favorites,
"runnin’ from a man called the sandman"
over and over
until he burst like a fervent firework
in theatrical performance,
swooping to intervene with Bob Dylan
or Simon and Garfunkel dialed down to a whisper.
To those harmonies
we crawled under tables
and into bean bags and enchanted pages
folded ourselves over notebooks,
concocting rambling, fantastical, outrageous sentences
with the Wykie Words of the Week
in competition for the coveted
Golden Paperclip Award,
its talisman pasted to a piece of construction paper and affixed to the wall—
Respect its power! Don’t stare! Retina damage!
He shrieked like a homeless man
as we laughed and tempted fate,
fixing our eyes dramatically on the tiny bent wire
that he had divined.
After lunch, to settle us, he read with wizardry
a daily installment of The Hobbit Or Jabberwocky
atypically pronounced.
And if we listened attentively
we could act it out tomorrow—
We could jyray in the wabee
with the outgrabee mome raths,
circling round him in ritual veneration.
Like in the photo I googled last week,
his hair now a thin white puff,
his face alight in a circle of fourth grade delight
on a hand-made loft
under a peace sign
at the ceiling of a classroom
in a distant state where,
36 years and 900-some minds later,
he still charms the children
from tedium into rapture.

Comment Stream

2 years ago

I have been looking for my favorite elementary school teacher, and this must be the same !r. Stoeri I had. This brought back such great memories! Do you know how to get in contact with him? I would love to thank him!

2 years ago

A truly beautiful poem, Angie. Thanks so much for writing it.