Afternoon. Across the garden, in Greco Hall,
someone begins playing the old piano
a spontaneous piece, amateurish and alive,
full of a simple, joyful melody.
The music floats among us in the classroom.
I stand in front of my students
telling them about sentence fragments.
I ask them to find the ten fragments
in the twenty-one-sentence paragraph on page forty-five.
They've come from all parts
of the worldIran, Micronesia, Africa,
Japan, China, even Los Angelesand they're still
eager to please me. It's less than half
way through the quarter.
They bend over their books and begin.
Hamid's lips move as he follows
the tortuous labyrinth of English syntax.
Yoshie sits erect, perfect in her pale make-up,
legs crossed, quick pulse minutely
jerking her right foot. Tony
sprawls limp in his desk, relaxed
as only someone can be who's
from an island in the South Pacific.
The melody floats around and through us
in the room, broken here and there, fragmented,
re-started. It feels mideastern, but
it could be jazz, or the bluesit could be
anything from anywhere.
I sit down on my desk to wait,
and it hits me from nowherea sudden
sweet, almost painful love for my students.
"Nevermind," I want to cry out.
"It doesn't matter about fragments.
Finding them or not. Everything's
a fragment and everything's not a fragment.
Listen to the music, how fragmented,
how whole, how we can't separate the music
from the sun falling on its knees on all the greenness,
from this moment, how this moment
contains all the fragments of yesterday
and everything we'll ever know of tomorrow!"
Instead, I keep a coward's silence.
The music stops abruptly;
they finish their work,
and we go through the right answers,
which is to say
we separate the fragments from the whole.
Al Zolynas, Under Ideal Conditions, Laterthanever Press, 1994.