On the Workings of the Student Mind

When peering through the window their profession opens on the workings of young minds, the emotions teachers experience can range enormously – from hope for the future to head-planting despair. Rarely are we left unmoved, and sometimes we are both amused and informed, as is the case here.

In ‘Transposed’ our ten-year-old hero grapples with the complex and weighty concepts of theology, mortality and identity. In this the second episode of his Sunday School series in The Font, Gale Acuff again successfully conveys the endearing combination of credulity and enquiry that characterises the preadolescent mind.

Meanwhile, Gaby Bedetti raises a smile with ‘Four Student Readings of “For That He Looked Not Upon Her”‘. These entertaining extracts from actual college essays not only offer insights into the kind of adults the young writers are becoming, but also serve as snapshots of aspects of the contemporary American zeitgeist, prompting us to reread Gascoigne’s classic ourselves and question the assumptions and attitudes we too bring to the text.

 

Transposed

I listen to Miss Hooker talk about
God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost and
I want to believe like I believe in
her but then I can see her with my own
eyes and I can’t see the Trinity though
Miss Hooker says that God is everywhere.
I guess He’s like a forest but I want
to see the trees or maybe it’s the trees
He’s like and I want to see the forest.
I’m not too bright and only in third grade
but maybe when I’m old like Miss Hooker,
25, I’ll know all I’ll need to know.
When that happens I’ll be ready to die,
I guess, though she could live a while yet but
I’ll live even longer, unless I go before my
time. God might take me out somehow, lightning
strike or car crash or I’ll join the Navy
and drown. They won’t recover my body.
I’ll get eaten by sharks so my carcass
won’t be wasted like it would be in ground.
Can’t even worms eat you anymore since
they wrap you inside an oblong steel box.
Only God will know I’m in the brine or
was. He’ll probably tell me so when I
see Him in Heaven, my soul I mean, it
will have eyes or at least something to see
with. The soul is like a skeleton without
any fancy extras so it’s the heart.
Miss Hooker says that God made up the world
so if I know how to see I’ll see Him
in everything. So He’s in my dog
and parents and comic books and corn dogs
and TV and homework and new toothbrush
and baseball bat and ball and mitt and in
Miss Hooker, too, not to mention me but
I just did, I guess I’m selfish that way.
When I came home from Sunday School today
I went to my bedroom to shed my suit
and put on my jeans and tee shirt and then
just stared into the mirror for a spell,
lunch wasn’t ready anyway, and saw
someone who looks a lot like me again.
I say a lot like me since we’re reversed.
His right eye is my left and left my right.
I wonder what he sees in me and if
I can join him on the other side, like
that Alice girl. I have bad luck sometimes
so even if I make it over he
probably had the same idea and then
where will we be? I hope he has some sense
of humor because I’ll feel like crying.
And if we didn’t rub shoulders passing
by each other then I’d say nothing’s changed.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in or out
since you can’t have one without the other.
When I die I guess Heaven will be good
because that’s where Miss Hooker will be and
she taught me everything I know about
God. I hope to Hell it’s enough. If not
I won’t be afraid to tell her. We’re close.

 

Four Student Readings of ‘For That He Looked Not Upon Her’

You must not wonder, though you think it strange, 
To see me hold my louring head so low; 
And that mine eyes take no delight to range 
About the gleams which on your face do grow. 
The mouse which once hath broken out of trap, 
Is seldom ‘ticed with the trustless bait, 
But lies aloof for fear of more mishap, 
And feedeth still in doubt of deep deceit. 
The scorched fly, which once hath ‘scaped the flame, 
Will hardly come again to play with fire: 
Whereby I learn that grievous is the game 
Which follows fancy dazzled by desire: 
So that I wink or else hold down my head, 
Because your blazing eyes my bale have bred. 

A feminist reading 
There are liabilities when one puts the key to one’s heart in another’s pocket. ‘Blazing eyes’ or not, the speaker is a beta male incapable of being satisfied because his perception of what a woman should be is distorted and one-sided. 

A sexist reading 
Many poets try to hide their feelings by using literary devices as a cover. Diction and imagery put the reader in the shoes of a mouse. The speaker falls victim to the trap of this woman’s infinite misery when all he wants is a piece of cheese. Gascoigne’s attitude is not complex at all: She does him wrong.  

A lyrical reading 
The poem revolves about this axis, and as such, the rhyme scheme teeters to the edge of a loose-leaf form. Not to be confused with the elegance of its language, the poem’s diction immerses itself in iconic English word play. Of course, the poem is filled with highlights of ‘fancy dazzled’ imagery. Overall, the poem by Gascoigne creates an atmosphere of unkindled reality.

A cultural reading
Form, diction, imagery: these three literary mechanisms will help me decant this poem. This poem is confusing. The only reason I am writing anything is because we are getting a grade on not falling asleep during the next three hours in this freezing room. ‘For That He Looked Not upon Her’ is much like a sixteenth century version of Taylor Swift. On the one hand he loves this woman for her beauty and her game, but on the other hand he hates her because he can’t resist her game and her beauty. I’ll be honest. I have never read the poem; therefore, I do not have the knowledge to answer the question, although I have taped a dollar bill to the last page of my answer.

 


For ‘Simple’ by Gale Acuff in The Font, visit the 2017 Vol. 2 poetry page On Sunday School (1) and 2018 Vol. 2 page On Sunday School (2).

For Gaby Bedetti’s ‘Inspired by Essay Responses to The Beet Queen‘ in The Font, visit the 2017 Vol. 2 poetry page On Inspiration.