Monday, February 3, 2014

"education" by Charles Bukowski


by Charles Bukowksi

at that small inkwell desk
I had trouble with the words
“sing” and “sign.”
I don’t know why
“sing” and “sign”:
it bothered

the others went on and learned
new things
but I just sat there
thinking about
“sing” and “sign.”
there was something there
I couldn’t

what it gave me was a
bellyache as
I looked at the backs of all those

the lady teacher had a
very fierce face
it ran sharply to a
and was heavy with white

one afternoon
she asked my mother to come
see her
and I sat with them
in the classroom
as they

“he’s not learning
anything,” the teacher
told my

“please give him a
chance, Mrs. Sims!”

“he’s not trying, Mrs.

my mother began to

Mrs. Sims sat there
and watched

it went on for some

then Mrs. Sims said,
“well, we’ll see what we
can do …”

then I was walking with
my mother
we were walking in
front of the school,
there was much green grass
and then the

“oh, Henry,” my mother said,
“your father is so disappointed in
you. I don’t know what we are
going to do!”

father, my mind said,
father and father and

words like that.

I decided not to learn anything
in that

my mother walked along
beside me.
she wasn’t anything at
and I had a bellyache
and even the trees we walked
seemed less than
and more like everything

The first week of the semester is exhausting. I like to think most people share this opinion, but it might just be me. Until I’m settled, I can’t help but feel these nagging doubts that I’m in the wrong place,  in over my head, and that I won’t be able to keep up. When I look around at my classmates, I believe that they have it all together, and that I’m the only one who’s already slightly freaking out about the final paper.

When I read Bukowski’s poem during this week, I felt a little bit of peace. Across the years and without asking for it, I've found someone who understands my anxiety, which is the chief pleasure of reading. I've felt that bellyache Bukowski talked about. It is one that comes from the fear of falling behind, of disappointing those who expect us to succeed, and of somehow not being able to move ahead. Bukowski’s childhood struggle with the words “sing” and “sign” is a fixation he could not overcome. He was helpless as his classmates moved on without him, and was paralyzed by the disappointment of his teacher and parents. Though in the poem Bukowski was only a child, his fears could be understood by anyone.

-Elizabeth Coluccio

1 comment:

  1. What a display of a teachers ignorance...the one in the poem and the one who wrote this little essay.