Everything I know

A student taps on my classroom window 
startling me from marking. It is already dark
outside and the persistent gloved knocking
nearly knocks me off my chair. When
I regain my composure enough to focus my
eyes on the darkened, reflective pane,
I set my pen on top of the stack and rise
to see who is out there. I know I will have to cup
my hands and look through their shadow to see
beyond my own watery reflection, which floats
toward me now, looking more apprehensive than I feel.
It looks as though
I am on the other side of the glistening sheet, wandering
in the darkness through blowing, biting snow. When I reach
the window and raise my hands to the glass, a chill slices
through them, runs down my forearms and trickles up
to behind my ears. The student is gone and in its place
are thousands more, trudging
through knee-deep drifts of snow, wandering
in the darkness, being taken by the cold
one bite at a time. Each of them bears the face
of my reflection and stares at me with eyes that pierce
through everything I know.

~ Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry is a junior high school teacher in Calgary, and a creative writing student at the University of Calgary. Much of his writing is inspired by his work as a teacher. His poems have appeared in The Prairie Journal, NoD Magazine, and The Gauntlet. He is currently working on his MFA in Creative Writing through the optional-residency program at UBC. He is grateful to the Alberta Foundation for the Arts for their financial support of his current writing project, a book-length manuscript of teacher poems, as well as his students, for driving him to write poetry. He and his wife have a one-and-a-half-year-old son.

“Students may not call school home, but in many ways it is their home. It is a place that helps shape their lives—where they meet friends and make enemies, where they learn, cheat, fight, fall in love again and again and again. It is a place where they can be surrounded by people yet feel completely alone. School is an amazing world that is in such a constant state of flux that, for anyone to try and grasp it fully seems to me an impossible task. My writing is an attempt to grope at some semblance of understanding of the complex world of school in all its idiosyncrasies.”

Editor’s note: This poem is from Home and Away – a sequel to the bestselling Writing the Land (2007). Look for one poet to be featured each day as Alberta poets ponder the question “what is home?” and explore our complex relationship with working on, living with, exploiting and protecting our land and our home. For more information about the project, click here.

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