“Empty Room,” digital art by Rick Hughes, 2013. Used with permission.

by Lowell Jaeger

Silence after I call your name this morning
earns another black mark in the roll book.
I drone one more throw-away lesson
to rows and rows of plastic seats
while more compliant students
stiffen their spines in mock attention.

Out the window lovers
nest on blankets in the sun. Two retrievers
leap in the fountain, chomping spray.

I fear I’ve fallen half asleep,
duty-bound to decades of paychecks
beyond a wrinkle of what they’re worth
in the long run up against the short span
of any man’s life. And I wonder,

in the few short hours you’ve attended,
what lessons you might have offered us,
your slightly sad, embarrassed
smile from the far dark of the classroom.
While your classmates and I rule our lives
in three ring binders, our fill-in-the-blank
joyless faces, our note-taking
deaf to the songs and seductions

of a spring day just like this.

omega man

Lowell Jaeger is the author of five poetry collections, most recently How Quickly What’s Passing Goes Past. He is the founding editor of Many Voices Press and recently edited New Poets of the American West, an anthology of poets from western states. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop, winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize, and a recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council. Most recently, Lowell was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting civic discourse.