I am in a class full of idiots,
assigned to The Sound and the Fury,
and most of us are beginning to think the title
a fairly apt description.
Among us is the boy with the long greasy hair,
who wears black and spouts Ulysses with a stutter,
who thinks the nonsense is intentioned, who,
applauding Faulkner’s genius, won’t hear our underbreath whispers
that you can still smell spilt whiskey
on each page.
Among us too are the requisite several girls who never speak,
the requisite several boys who rarely show,
the boy from Baltimore who likes to think he’s Southern
since it lets him start sentences with
“Well, for me personally,
being from the South,
I think the symbolism of the
syllogism has a
very imagistic effect on the
heinous (pronounced hyenous)
if you get my meaning.”
There are some of us who scribble idle poetry
beneath our notes, which consist
of caricatures of some oddly morphed entity
like our teacher and like Faulkner, drunken and drooling.
There’s the graduate assistant who sits on his nervous hands
to keep them from volunteering intelligence
into this fog of stupidity, and
on top of it all, there’s the hotshot teacher hired for fame
who wouldn’t know the difference
between a student and a dog
if it bit her.
And I’m tired.
Tired of the lack of punctuation,
of the sentences endless and thick as forests,
of the time travel crammed between two words.
I’m tired of humoring a cocky writer who assumed
I would do the work required to understand,
when my reward for understanding
is deeper knowledge of depressing, sadistic, masochistic, misogynistic,
abused, abusive, apathetic,
cultish characters for whom I never cared,
though now I harbor some resentment
that (for me personally, being from the South) so much of the world
thought they represented so much of the South
for so long.
And outside the spring is passing away
like an unfortunate Yoknapatawphan,
and Quentin on the page keeps saying
and i temporary,
and I know that wasting my mornings in this class is a temporary burden,
but its end is the end of all other wonderful wastes
I’ve been privy to, as a student at this esteemed institution,
when in the middle of the muck of Quentin’s id I find the phrase
you cannot bear to think that someday it will no longer hurt you like this.
“Why does Quentin kill himself?”
the teacher asks, in a voice bright as bleach,
as if she didn’t think it were a stupid question
aimed at a dayroom full of vegetables.
There is silence,
as there always is,
but not because, as she thinks, we didn’t read the book
or were born with pigeon brains.
In one moment of silence I read volumes more than Faulkner ever wrote; it says
we do not speak because we each have an answer,
and each is correct,
and each is reason enough for Quentin to call it quits,
and each is our own secret reason—
my father, my mother, will never understand;
I will never attain my object of desire;
I am motheaten by my secrets;
no one, not even me, truly knows who I am.
I know my answer is on the last page of Quentin’s life,
so since it has weakly to do with the book,
I martyr myself, and raise my hand.
“He cannot bear to think that someday it will no longer hurt him like this.”
“Elaborate,” she says.