—Minneapolis, ca. 1973
by Maryann Corbett
The Talker I remember. There were more—
eternal campus oddballs, almost mythic
in common-room and beer chat. But we saw
Stories were cautionary, tragic,
and malleable—a dissertation blighted?
A prelim failed? And still he clutched the magic
wand of the scholar.
On the quieter nights,
his swooping voice lectured to empty floors
in classroom buildings, or the ghastly lights
of library stacks, deserted corridors,
the walk above the Mississippi. Bustling,
pulsing, intense as twenty full professors;
coat patched with duct tape.
One detail was puzzling:
Each of us seemed to hear spurts of his own
discipline, a sort of razzle-dazzling
Everyfield, in the plunge or buzz or drone
of the voice—as though the devil were at play
with each one’s fears. But how his pale eyes shone!
How passionate his gestures in the walkway!
And if you met the eyes—at night, alone—
you thought, The void that sucks the soul away . . . .
and wondered, briefly, if you’d see the line
between intense and crazy when you breached
it with your own obsessions.
We’re all fine
now, those who remember this. We teach
for just enough to live on. For the Muse.
For Science. Tenure has floated out of reach.
I think of him when shooters make the news.
Copyright © 2014 by Maryann Corbett.