Some higher-up who deemed it would be goodnFor Learning (even better for P.R.)nTo make the school “accessible to all”nRented the shut-down bookstore at the MallnA few steps from Poquito’s Mexican FoodnAnd Chocolate Chips Ahoy. So here we are —nFour housewives, several solemn student nurses,nMs. Washington, well-dressed and very dark,nPete Fontenot, who teaches high-school shopnAnd is besides a part-time private copnWho leaves his .38 among the purses,nAnd I, not quite as thin as Chaucer’s Clerk —nMet for our final class while Season’s CreetingsnEcho subliminally with calls to buynWhatever this year’s taste deems necessarynFor Joy and Happiness. The Virgin Mary,nSet up outside to audit our last meetings.nAdores her infant with a glassy eye.nInvoke the Musak: hail to thee, World Lit!nHail, Epic (“most of which was wrote in Greek”)nAnd hail three hours deep in Dante’s Helln(The occupants of which no one could spell) —nAs much as the tight schedule might admitnOf the Creat Thoughts of Man — one dose per week.nI’ve lectured facing towards the esplanadenThrough plate-glass windows on such ironynAs Helen’s face (“that launched a thousand ships”)nBlooming with pimples from the chocolate chips.nNobody got the joke. Rapt on a grade.nThey put it in their notebooks. They face me.nOne night near Hallowe’en I filled the boardnwith notes on Faust. A woman with blue hairnStood writing at the window, looking innThe Classroom at the Mallnby R.S. GwynnnAnd copying my scrawl with a tight grinnThat threatened she’d be back with flaming swordnTo corner me and Satan in our lair.nTonight, though, all is calm. They take their quiznWhile I sit calculating if I’ve madenEnough for the kids’ presents. From my chairnI watch the Christmas window-shoppers starenAt what must seem a novelty, and is.nThe Church of Reason in the Stalls of Trade.nLike the blond twins who press against the door.nAccompanied by footsore, pregnant Mummy,nWho tiredly spells out for them the reasonnI am not price-tagged as befits the season.nExplaining what is sold in such a storenWith nothing but this animated dummynWho rises, takes the papers one by onenWith warm assurances that all shall passnBecause “requirements have been met,” becausenI am an academic Santa Claus,nBecause mild-mannered Pete’s strapped on his gun.nMs. Washington declares she has enjoyed the class:n”They had some thoughts, those old guys,” she begins.nThen falters for the rest. And I agreenBecause, for once, I’ve nothing left to saynAnd couldn’t put it better anyway.nI pack the tests, gather my grading pens.nAnd fumble in my jacket for the key,nWith time to shop and promises to keepnAnd no epiphany to end the talenExcept the drifting, circulating teensnWith Daddy’s plastic pulsing in their jeansnWho wander by in search of something cheapnOr something, surely, soon to go on sale.nnnSEPTEMBER 1989/23n