Over half full. Getting pumped for this. Looking forward to meeting my students.
Eight weeks ago I was thrown into the deep end of a course I’d never taught before (not exactly) in a community college I’d never been to, with seven students I didn’t know. We met every Wednesday night between 6 and 8 pm, after work, hungry and tired, in an empty boardroom somewhere in the city. After the last class we all went out for farewell drinks. How many writers does it take to find a quiet bar on game night? State of Origin. North against South. Us v Them. Blue v Maroon.
Pale blue jerseys and surly barkeeps everywhere. The game projected on the sides of buildings, on high-def screens large and small. No cabs in sight. The restaurants empty. Everyone at home or at the pub, and no talking unless you’re screaming or buying a drink, or you want a punch to the throat. Except there we are in our sweaty power-suits and teacher’s drag, stories in our heads and words the only game in town.
There were five of us left. Two drop-outs (my lost American went back to LA; my Indian dreamer caught up in home and work duties), and the scruffy poet a no show. We missed him. His absurdist ramblings with a healthy disrespect for tense and time and which left an indelible image burned on the soul (a vast vaporous train station where the train never comes, a bus bisecting a desert path to nowhere). So it was just us. We found an upstairs room in a big noisy bar and got to know each other a little better. All but one of us comes from somewhere else.
Between them one publishable story, the beginning chapters of a novel and a travel memoir, and from the Ukrainian auto-didact, a vivid take on a mother-son encounter. Each with a new path carved from their hearts to their eyes and their ears and their tongues. Their fingertips telling them that the world is now a different place.
And the school offered me two more classes. Go the Blues!
‘Beirut is thirsty,’ he tells them;
but Beirut is too far and too long ago
for them to care. What they really want,
is to be done with him.
The tutorial too.
How can I make them understand?
How can I tell them
that his book isn’t about coffee or water,
or even about the bombing of Beirut?
That Darwish writes about history
from inside the red ink-bottle
of atomic bodies; the vacuum-
sealed mind of Feiruz’s love song:
I love you, O Lebanon.
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