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1960s students

Reed students in the 1950s

Rutsala image

Vern Rutsala ’56 is the author of The Moment’s Equation, which was a finalist for the 2005 National Book Award in poetry, as well as A Handbook for Writers and How We Spent Our Time, among other works. He recently retired from the English department at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.

Vern Rutsala ’56

Hello to the Back Row

I sat silent in the back row too
Feeling sleep in the room’s buzz
Settle their nets
Even now I drift there
Over the scrape of chairs
Shedding lectern and notes
Traveling back
To an old self
Sleepy with rage in the last row
Save me a place
As far back as possible
Where faces haze anonymous
A place beyond questions
Where answers all curdle
And turn inside out
Where we stay alive by mockery
And the need only to be present
But scarcely counted scarcely known
Save me a place
I sit there too
As nearly erased as possible
Sleeping with both eyes open
Champion of the doodle
Master of the concealed yawn
Silent assassin
Save me a place
Beyond charm and winks
Too far away
To polish anyone’s apple
I understand
Understand how to snort
Contempt with silence
How to be and not be
How time is a stone
That never moves