I needed the teaching job in ‘68
or off to Viet Nam
but when I told what happened
no one believed me.
I said to my buddy John Wiley,
“Each day I cover for teachers who are absent.”
He smiled, Viet Nam not a problem for him
having declared himself
a Communist Homosexual Drug Addict
a month ago to avoid servitude.
Continuing I said, “Or who quit on the spot
running from the building in terror and tears.”
“Bernstein, ” he said, “the life of homosexual drug addict
ain’t that bad, anyway,
after seven years the records are expunged.”
“You left out Communist.”
“Too doctrinaire for polite conversation.”
“So, ” I said, needing sympathy,
“Norma Lumley ran away in the middle of her Science class
and Principal Pink sent me to the room.
When I stepped in
Assistant Principal Pekale stood next to the board
like a catatonic zombie as students ran around
and the water gushed out of the faucet and the gas hissed.
At last he intoned in a low monotone voice,
‘There, there...let’s try to act like young ladies and gentlemen.
Let’s see who can do this problem.
If Johnny had ten cents and wanted to buy candy
and the candy cost two cents,
how many pieces could he buy? ’
No one had listened, therefore no one responded.
He pointed to the blur of whirling bodies
at the center of the room and babbled,
‘Yes. Five. Wonderful.' '
Wiley began whistling. Don’t know why. Didn’t ask.
Went on, “No student had uttered a word.
He had answered his own question.
He droned on, ‘You see how well you can do if you just try.’
The water still gushing
and the eerie smell of gas floating in the air.
‘Now Mr. Bernstein is going to take over, ’ he said
“When this is over, ” said Wiley, “put pen to paper.”
A Pause. Then a smile:
“These phantasmagorical tales, Bernstein,
you make ‘em up, right? ”
Whistling again, now with a bit of a tap dance.
Finally: “The insanity ploy.
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.