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Professor

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An octave higher
his voice fell
on pin-pricked ears,
and when he laughed,
he was the only one,
and the world did not laugh too.
When he smiled,
it was like a bent coat hanger
dangling beneath his nose,
as if eventually
the wind would knock it astray
and he would be mouthless,
fumbling for a dying pen
or a shard of pencil
to scribble out his urgency.
He would push back his hair piece,
and clack his dentures together
(the ones that never existed),
and glue would run down his gums
like candle wax,
mingling with the spittle that caught
on his lips each day.
He would pace, not with thought,
but with the anxiety of a man
who feared that he would go unremembered
and never make it to the bathroom
and never see his daughter's daughter
in her South Carolina town.
He was feverish with love
and nauseated with anticipation
each time he spoke.
The world to him was so vast,
so undeniably perfect,
that it put each listener into a hazy,
drizzling stupor.
His foggy eyes would shine
with the spark of something,
far more complex than this room
in this moment
right now,
and he would spin these stories
as he picked at the threads
of his woolen sweater vest
and as his veins protruded ever more
from his sallow forehead,
spiderwebbing his skin
in green and purple.
But one day, one day
when he felt such a passion
swell inside his stomach,
when his kidneys ached with anxiety
and his lungs struggled to keep up
with his words,
his hands began to tremble.
And they did not stop.
Not even as his prized fountain pen
splattered on the floor.
Not even when his voice
refused to crawl out of his throat.
Even in that awful, trembling silence,
he didn't stop.
He wished to tell the world's story,
wished to give a face and a memory
to each of the millions who had walked before him.
He wished this so much,
that he protested when they stabbed him
with twenty seven needles
and pumped him with Dilaudid and
numbed his mind with milky dreams.
He kept fighting, through pain,
and sleep,
and the future;
fighting against what would come
no matter how hard he tried to stop it.
And for this, he did not go forgotten.
For this, he is remembered
by each and every student
that slumped into class
and fell asleep,
only to wake up and see that he hadn't stopped,
that he was still telling the world's story,
even if no one was listening.



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