Pantoum by Claire Drucker

Pantoum
for my students

Words like cherry blossoms, inhale of beginnings,
you agonize over getting it right, your soul there, not there.
I am most myself in the classroom, in the heat of ideas,
you are the root of the maple, branches intertwining toward tomorrow.

You agonize over getting it right, your soul there, not there,
this earth spinning more quickly than it used to,
you are the root of the maple, branches intertwining
toward tomorrow. Every year we had rainy winters that left the gutters

running, this earth spinning more quickly than it used to,
your desire for knowledge, a less constant need than food.
Every year we had rainy winters that left the gutters running.
I want to give you back to yourself, so you can taste this

moment, your desire for knowledge, a less constant need than food.
Where would you go if you only had a few days left to breathe?
I want to give you back to yourself, so you can taste this moment, but
sweet, warm air brushes back some longing that cannot be named.

Where would you go if you only had a few days left to breathe?
Your hands reach for each other, not for grades or homework.
Sweet, warm air brushes back some longing that cannot be named,
and I want to give you the moon but the ocean pulls away these days.

Your hands reach for each other, not for grades or homework.
I want to give you the moon but the ocean pulls away these days.
Words like cherry blossoms, inhale of beginnings.
I am most myself in the classroom, in the heat of ideas.

by Claire Drucker

Editor’s Note: The repetition in this poem perfectly conveys the longing that is the central heart of this poem (both the teacher’s and the students’), in all of its complexity.