One of the great poems about teachers

(poetry diary 69) We had parent-teacher conferences for the 1st time last night (kid is in kindergarten) so I was trying to remember poems about teachers.  I thought of one poem I’d loved back esp when I was teaching college in the 1990’s, but couldn’t remember the title or author or anything of it other than a line that went something like “not father or lover” and I misremembered the poem as being about a boy who drowned. After a number of searches I finally found it:
Theodore Roethke
I remember the neckcurls, limp and damp as tendrils;
And her quick look, a sidelong pickerel smile;
And how, once startled into talk, the light syllables leaped for her,
And she balanced in the delight of her thought,
It’s an odd, good piece about a non-traditional kind of love.  I’m having trouble figuring out whether I should feel scandalized by it…or whether I should ignore the way the Police song “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” plays in my head after I read it and instead view the sensual, slightly discomforting details of the poem as being as complex and ambiguous as love, in all of its many forms.
The tension and discomfort and provocation-of-thought are what help to make it one of our “classic” poems….Reading it makes me wish I was still teaching, as I wonder how college students would feel about it in these politically sensitive times.

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