By Billy Collins
This poem captures the disappointment of a teacher with his obstinate students. Truly examining something – especially a work of art – includes looking at it from multiple perspectives and discovering different meanings, but the students continually abuse the work in an attempt to discover one true meaning because they are certain that one must outweigh all the rest.
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
(Photo: Elijah O’Donell)