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October 2018, vol 14 no 3

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Ray Rasmussen

Last Class

6: 15 p.m. The students begin to trickle into the classroom. Then a surge of bodies, as if washed in by a wave. They murmur greetings, fill the room with sound.

At 6:30 p.m. I call for quiet, introduce a case study, a wrap-up to the term in which they will demonstrate what they have learned over our 14 weeks of work.

I raise questions, challenge their answers, grill them endlessly. My thoughts run between surprise at their intelligence as they make meaning of the case, and disappointment as I perceive that in places they don't quite know what they're talking about, maybe haven't prepared, or perhaps are just tired at the school year's end.

9:15 p.m. The pace and tension slacken, there's a pause like the one when the tide finally stops running in and a stillness as it changes, begins to run out.

I feel a bone-deep tiredness, see fatigue in their faces, understand their need to leave these stiff-backed, wooden seats, to exit this stuffy room, to end it.

I congratulate them on the case and on completing the course, then ask those who are graduating to stand.

"You've worked hard for this," I say, "you shouldn't just leave, empty-handed, as if nothing significant has happened."

And, the rest of us applaud them.

Somewhere in the swell of sound I feel tears starting and blink them away.

9:30 p.m. A swell of sound again as they stand, stretch, make their goodbyes. Then a rush of bodies out of the room. A few stop to thank me for the course. Two mention that the course has made a difference to them.

9:35 p.m. I shut down the computer-projector, shovel papers into my briefcase, and hear myself mumbling that I'm graduating too, that this is the last class I will teach.

I am no longer able to blink the tears away.

garage cleaning day –
my father's fishing pole
wrapped in dust

Note: First published in Simply Haiku, 2005.