Haibun in the Modern English-Language Style by Ray Rasmussen
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My Last Class

6: 15 p.m. The students begin to trickle into the classroom. Then a surge of bodies, as if washed in by a wave. They murmur greetings, fill the room with sound.

At 6:30 I introduce a case study, a wrap-up to the term in which they will demonstrate what they have learned, or not learned, over our 14 weeks of work. I raise questions, challenge their answers, grill them mercilessly. My thoughts run between surprise at their intelligence as they twist and turn ideas to make meaning of the case, and disappointment as I perceive that in places they don't quite know what they're talking about.

8:30 p.m. The pace and tension slacken, there's a pause like the one when the tide finally stops running in and considers running out. I feel a bone-deep tiredness, see fatigue in their faces, their need to leave these stiff-backed wooden seats, to exit this stuffy room, to end it.

I stop, congratulate them on the case and on completing the course. Then I ask those who are graduating to stand.

"You've worked hard for this," I say, "you shouldn't just leave, empty, as if nothing significant has happened." And, the rest of us applaud them.

Somewhere in the swell of sound I feel tears starting and blink them away.

A swell of sound again as they stand, stretch, make their goodbyes. Then a rush of bodies out of the room. Some stop to thank me for the course. A few mention that the course has made a difference to them.

silent classroom—
these chairs occupied
by a thousand ghosts

8:45 p.m. I shut down the computer-projector, shovel papers into my briefcase, and hear myself mumbling that I'm graduating too, that this is the last class I will teach. I am unable to blink the tears away.

garage cleaning day—
my father's fishing pole
wrapped in dust