Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ZEB KINNEY ON PROFESSORS, by WILBERT SNOW



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ZEB KINNEY ON PROFESSORS, by            
First Line: I don't know why I asked him what he thought
Last Line: "it takes all kinds of folk to make a world."
Alternate Author Name(s): Snow, Charles Wilber
Subject(s): Teaching & Teachers


I don't know why I asked him what he thought
Of that peculiar brand of summer folk
Who rusticate among us three full months
Of every year. Perhaps it was that all
The other topics had been grappled with,
Or, better, paddled with, for that was no
Fit morning to be grappling anything.
The northern sun lay lovingly along
The sloping ledges on the northern bank
Of that still cove where most of us had loafed
The finest mornings of our lives away,
Discussing, smoking, whittling in the sun --
Brown ledges whose soft shade reflected warmth,
And held our bodies anchored to the field,
Our legs extending downward to the shore,
A sort of no-man's-land for loafing in.
The grass around these ledges, beaten down,
Had turned from green to tawny and lay flat,
Enfolding that appeal one gets from paths
Leading from kitchen doors to pasture wells.
We sat and dozed together, rousing only
When little pollock flipped above the cove,
Or some bright burst of sunlight hit beneath
A sea-gull's wing directly overhead,
When Zeb, whose ruminations held him still
For nearly twenty minutes, straightened up
Above his favorite forty-five-degree.
Extent of relaxation on the ledge,
Jabbed for a broken lath to whittle on,
Cleared out his throat, and rid himself of this:

"Well, these professors that you ask about
Who come here every year are curious.
I s'pose it takes all kind to make a world,
And none of us should be too heavy on
A neighbor, even if he don't belong.
Of course they don't belong, that's sure enough:
The smell of herrin' bait in George's skiff
Would knock the stoutest of them galley west;
And none of them appears to be real rugged.
When they go out to hand-line cod with me
They keep a-looking' round at birds and boats
And colors on the channel, -- scursely one
Can ketch his share of cod, -- and never once
Has ary one of them hauled up his sleeves
And helped me gut a fish when we rowed in.

They read the books that other people don't,
And never talk about the books they read,
Leastwise to us; and some of them go in
And pound the type-writer three times a day,
Like I would go to meals; but what they write
Not one of us hears ary word about.
I figger out they write their heavy books
For one another, not for common duffers.
They play book-lairnin' games of hide-and-seek
As we play racin' with our motor-boats
On August mornin's when the shedderin'
And weather has us all a-feelin' good.
I peeked jest out o' curiosity
At some type-written papers once up-stairs,
And found it all about the big mistake
Professor Sombody in Germany
Had made in chapter four of his big book
On quails. I don't suspect that chap could tell
An early oldsquaw from a patchhead coot.
Next thing somebody else will write a book
In which this squid will have its gills hauled out
For some mistake he's made; it's all jest like
A batch of kittens playin' with their tails.
Leastwise, that's 'bout the way I figger it.

They don't go out enough and let the sun
Beat down and make them look like other folks;
They shrink before us lobster-ketchers do;
And hate to have their children roll around
In dirt and mud, like every youngster should.
Of course they wouldn't take advise from me:
But I can see them gather barnacles
Like my old sloop out there in Lobster Cove.
When barnacles and eel-grass slow her down,
I haul her up and take the scraper to her:
That's what professors need -- a good sharp scraper
To clean the rubbish off their garboards, clean
The gubber from their engine-valves and pipes,
To perk them up so they'll get back their sprawl.

Here comes one now from Amariah's field
To see how we behave when we set here
And talk the mornin' out; he'll listen to us,
And then go back and tell how quaint we be.
It takes all kinds of folk to make a world."





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