What Did You Learn Today? by Robert Wexelblatt
In History we’re doing China. The book says
that Emperor Wen had only four concubines.
Marsha said concubines rhymes with porcupines
but Ms. Roth wouldn’t tell us what they are.
Do concubines have lots of prickly quills?
We explained to the substitute, Ms. Carpenter, that
Mr. Keller had his stroke just when he was starting
to explain how to multiply and divide fractions
and that’s why we only know how to use decimals.
After that, Ms. Carpenter stopped being mad at us.
In English we learned that Shakespeare may or
may not have written what Shakespeare wrote.
This disgusted everybody but most of all Todd,
who said it was as bad as Schrodinger’s cat.
Ms. Roth asked him who Schrodinger was.
We learned about syllogisms. You know. Syllogisms.
All pine trees are conifers. Spruce trees are conifers too.
Therefore spruce trees are pine trees. No, wait. That
can’t be right. Well then, something about this guy
named Socrates being a man and being dead.
We’re studying the Constitution. America has a bicameral
legislature which means two humps. The Senate hump
has two old men from every state, even the smallest,
while the House hump is chockfull of representatives.
Oh, and the President has to be thirty-five years old.
I learned that Joe Barrish once had ringworm and
that Phil’s real father died when he was only seven.
I figured out that girls are softer and tougher than boys
but just as mean and that it’s calming to stare at trees
since they always know what to do and never look at us.
Robert Wexelblatt is professor of humanities at Boston University’s College of General Studies. He has published essays, stories, and poems in a wide variety of journals, two story collections, Life in the Temperate Zone and The Decline of Our Neighborhood, a book of essays, Professors at Play, and a short novel, Losses. His novel, Zublinka Among Women, won the Indie Book Awards First Prize for Fiction. A chapbook, The Derangement of Jules Torquemal, will be out in 2014.