On Teaching Grammar

Floating Ladders2
By Athena

Sometimes my voice falters
little gasps interrupting
my cadence, my confidence
This is when I know
that I do not know
enough to convince
myself, let alone
a room full of post-lunch faces
eyelids dragging floorward,
periodically flicking to the
plastic clock just above my head.

I could do as my teachers
before me and bullshit
my way through the question
They won’t care so long as the grades
align with the lies. They’ll pack away their
confusion like too-small jeans
for another time when life is not
so overwhelming any more. But
I can’t bring myself
to meet their eyes.

So I soldier on. Stuck
in front of the board, blue
marker poised mid-cheek
close enough that the fumes
wake me from immobility.
How do I explain
time and tense and why
will have been is relevant
in an age of text messages
and instant gratification?

I draw diagrams, 2-D
pictures flattening out the terrain,
the terroir of living language.
I point to passages
in the book, explanations
on the net. I manipulate
sample sentences, use nonsense words
to separate content from structure
I provide historical context, Latinate
derivations, Saxon influence
but they’re not buying it,
and frankly, neither am I.

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