Mathematics Teacher, 1960
not with the length of rubber hose
reserved for East Texas farmers’ sons
like him, who could take it. They loved him for it.
When he, spent, bent over, hands on his knees,
sobbing air like an old plow horse,
the eighth-grade boys, some already shaving,
reached down, hesitating, and touched his back,
then returned to their desks, looking anew
at those equations—if this . . . then this.
Weeknights, he gathered his textbooks,
his grade book with room for all
the rotating crops of farmers’ sons,
then lifted the clipboard from beside his swivel rocker
in the den and took out his red-lead pencil.
Saturday nights he reserved for Old Testament prophets,
Jeremiah’s long arm of judgment, Caleb and Joshua,
warriors eager to wrench the Promised Land
from giants and infidels. The margins of his bible
were pillars of yeas and nays, pronouncements
for his Sunday morning Bible Class of men like him—
fair country pitchers who never made the Big Leagues,
who wandered the wilderness of bread lines, Iwo Jima
and Saipan, knelt at the graves of wives and babies
then rose up before classrooms, filling the blackboards
with sines and cosines, irrational numbers.