Featured Poem: English Class

Donna DeLeo Bruno
Ft. Lauderdale Branch

I stand before my teenage students
    Speaking of Homer’s “Odyssey,”
Of Penelope, Ulysses’ faithful and long-suffering wife
    Who waited twenty years for reunion with her husband.
Before me sit kids who fall in and out of love each week.


I laud “The Bard”
    Shakespeare and his masterpieces.
The boys see only the curvaceous “masterpiece”
    Of the svelte but buxom female blond
Who floats across the room.


I speak of poets
    Byron, Shelley, Keats.
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”
    They nod approvingly
As the same female student
    Demonstrates “poetry in motion” in her walk.


“Remember John Donne
    who wrote ‘No man is an island unto himself’?”
And with that quote, they recall the hijinks
     Of last week’s boozy island beach party
With bombed-out babes.


Do I “cast pearls before swine”? I wonder.
    The bell rings — class ends.
A student approaches and requests that I peruse his poems.
    I take them home; that night I read them.


Can it be that this sleepy-eyed, tattooed boy
    Has actually “heard” me?
He writes of “a thing of beauty”–
    The Statue of Liberty that welcomed him from a distant land
Ruled by some “MacBeth-like” tyrant — ruthless and ambitious.


And identified with “No man is an island”
    When a church group sheltered his family
And led him to this place
    Where in due time, he plans to “march to his own drummer.”


And so my teacher’s “heart leaps up
    when I behold” not Wordsworth’s “rainbow in the sky”
But rather one student
    With whom these works have resonated,
Words that will be woven
    Into the “masterpiece” tapestry of a life.



  1. My retired teacher eyes filled with tears, hoping that my former students too understood and continue to be impacted by the important pieces of poetry and literature that teachers bravely introduce. In an attempt to help students gain that personal insight from classic works that are timeless you cannot know when the lines will bring personal awareness nor the moment that the words are recollected in times of need. Brava.
    Sheila Firestone

  2. I like this poem very much! The poet brought me into her own world with all of her feelings. She made me feel the joy she experienced when her lesson inspired a student to write a wonderful poem. Bravo!✍️

  3. Sara Etgen-Baker says:

    Oh so many times I, too, often wondered if the depth of what I was teaching in my British lit classes ever resonated with my students. I decided early on, though, that teaching was an act of faith and assumed that even the most unlikely of students was hearing what I was guiding them to learn. I’ve had your similar experience and found myself a bit weepy eyed after reading your poem. Many years ago I retired my chalk and began writing. In the interim, I’ve had many a student contact me telling me that at the time they were in my class that they just weren’t “getting” me or the curriculum. Some of it stuck, for many remember years later when they needed it the most some of what they heard was meaningful. Grateful for teaching and for writing. 🙂

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