“No, he was back in the bottom of the well. The WPA had given out money for well-digging equipment on the reservation, and he and Biboon [his father] had set to work using a windlass and a pile of dry stones that they had been picking from their fields for years… . The government had also issued an iron well ring. They dug out the interior of the ring and mortared the stones together on top. As the ring sank deeper, they kept setting stones into the sides of the earth.”
Thomas Wazhashk, the main character in Louise Erdrich’s brilliant novel The Night Watchman, is reflecting in a flashback, and in the scope of this narrative, it is only a drop in the bucket, but it takes me to a poem, one I haven’t thought about in awhile, one that graced the wall in my classroom for at least five years, one that a student chose for her National Poetry Month Poster poem. It stood the test of time.
I can see it clearly, affixed to a closet door beneath the clock. The student was a brilliant artist, but it’s the words that remain:
The day that she presented her memorized poster-poem to the class, a young man in the back blurted, “Mark Zuckerberg talks about that poem in the book I’m reading.” The current movie about Facebook’s founder, The Social Network, had drawn him to the biography. His connection spurred the class to discuss Schertle’s poem, and the movie naturally, at greater length. It was one of those moments you can’t plan for but that makes teaching exceptional in the world of work.
Tomorrow is April and the start of National Poetry Month. When the kids would ask, what kind of poem they should choose for their poster poem, I’d reply, “Make it wall-worthy. It will be with us until the end of the year.”
Teachers may be without those classroom walls for now, but the corridors of the mind are infinite. Here’s hoping we can help them find their wall-worthys.