I learned something: I am too old for this. I have lost patience, if I ever really had any, with the whole idea of going over a syllabus. I do not like it that fifteen minutes of my life that I can never have back were spent going over the format of our homework in detail when the same information was right there on the handy yellow piece of paper. I don’t like stupid rules, points for showing up, or arbitrary measures of work. I’m beginning to wonder how I coped with school before.
My class has 15 members. About four are in my age cohort. We are about what you’d expect. Some of us are very thin, very young, very quiet, very uncomfortable with language, very fat, very colorful, very bored, very arty, very earnest, very ignorant. We sit in our random collection of desks, a random collection of people. (Except we’re not. Someone I know, can’t remember who, went on a rant recently-ish about the way we use the word random. We all chose to be there, so we were not randomly assembled. Someone put the desks in the room for a reason, too. What I meant and did not write was that we are a mixed bunch with only one thing in common: having signed up for this creative writing class. Damn the editor in my brain! And thank you for your patience, if you are still reading this digression.)
My teacher can’t spell “homonym.” I administered an unscientific poll and found that many people can’t. Let me be specific: I asked two fifth-graders, a ninth-grader, and Brent and none of them got it on the first try; apparently it is harder than I thought. Several people in the class can’t make a list of five words, including homonyms, with more than one meaning. To add to the confusion, the words had to be nouns, verbs, or adjectives. In the time allotted, I came up with this list, although I added the parenthetical part later:
cleave (separate, cling to)
tender (soft, sore, offer)
stick (branch, adhere)
go (leave, Chinese game)
heel (rear of foot, lean over, follow, as a dog)
spit (expectorate, skewer)
invest (put money in, install in a position)
figure (drawing, number, calculate)
cipher (zero, code, calculate)
angle (geometric figure, point of view, fish)
shoe (footwear, card holder)
The aforementioned fifth-graders enjoyed the idea and managed to come up with many, including count, flag, and poo/Pooh/pooh. (Before anyone gets upset about the potty humor, let me point out that one of the students in my class offered hoe/’ho and she is certainly old enough to know better.)
As you may have guessed, we had to share one of our words with the class. From the resulting list, our teacher chose eight:
sea/see/si (yes, from the Spanish)
stick (hey, look! I made the list!)
He gave us the following homework assignment, which I have edited to make sense: Write a paragraph or a poem using all eight of the class’s words (but not necessarily all meanings of the words or homonyms). Whichever form you choose, your result should not exceed 100 words. Keep in mind that shorter and tighter may be better. Do not modify the form of the words (e.g., do not use “sticky.”). Do not use “sea horse.” Make sure to write something that everyone will understand and appreciate (and I quote: “Let’s not throw paint at the wall and call it art.”).
Should you so desire, you may now go and knock yourself out on this little gem of an assignment.
So you know, I did mine. I am an over-achiever type, so I did both a paragraph and a poem without going over the total word-count. Think I”ll pass?
My paragraph: My plane took off into a chilly rain. The view over the plain made me wish I could sow seeds there in the furrows that stretched to the sea. In a pasture beyond a line of cypress trees, a boy teased a horse with a wet stick. I leaned my forehead against the cool pane of glass and wished for home.
Eight words to sow across the page
in chilly black on white;
a hoarse scratch of pen to stick
to this chilly plain,
this cool sea of paper.
What strange plant may sprout and flower
from these paltry seeds?