As Hard as We Can

This is a picture I snapped at about 8:30 am this morning as my students were scratching away at their final exam. An in class essay on what they got out of the class. They did not look nervous... maybe a little more tired than usual... 

The only sound I could hear was their pencils scribbling across lined notebook paper. It was a peaceful sound even as I watched them chew their bottom lip or look at the ceiling to recall a phrase, pens racing, eyes editing on the fly. 

As they worked, I turned to reading for next semester. I have to do a unit of poetry at some point in the fiction section. Right now, Billy Collins is my favorite. The last few lines of "No Things" might be the best:


What good is the firefly,
the droplet running along the green leaf,
or even the bar of soap spinning around the bathtub
when ultimately we are meant to be
banging away on the mystery
as hard as we can and to hell with the neighbors?

Banging away on nothingness itself,
some with their foreheads,
others with the maul of sense, the raised jawbone of poetry.

Writing is my way of digging for the truth, searching out a mystery, answering the questions deep inside of myself.

Watching these students bang away at writing this semester... watching myself talk them through it... or off the ledge in rare cases... and understanding that we've all walked away with new skills - to hell with neighbors... this peaceful place is filled with crazy characters, loud ideas. I wouldn't have it any other way.