You asked me, “Do I look familiar?”
And I thought, “Oh dear. A test.”
You asked me, “Do you remember
a man who looked like me?” Hundreds of
Faces every semester sit in my classes,
a circle of eager eyes, young smiles…
How could I be asked to recall any former student’s face,
Especially when your face hides under a Covid mask?
You asked me, “Does this help?”
as you removed your blue N-95 covering,
Revealing a smile, a scruffy chin,
and the past re-arose alive
from its smothering cloth.
A memory of another young man,
many years ago, sitting in my debate course,
Writing his rebuttal to another student’s arguments,
And the other young man’s face buried in his notes
like a miser’s loving the thing for its thingness.
And I remember your father’s look. His eyes like a collector who assess the size, the incredible size, of their collection,
and in your face, I remember your father learning to persuade, to speak, to advocate,
to challenge, to remember what he learned.
You asked me, “Do you see him in me?”
And as a tree with all its leaves relaxed
I shivered at the memory of teaching your father,
some twenty-five years ago,
And how, then, I taught a young man
to think of different perspectives, of policies not his own,
And like the still waters of a pool, I recall
their springing origins and the rise and fall
of our discussion in our class,
and in the halls, and outside the debate rooms.
So yes, I remember your father from now to then,
And in you I see and feel again the chance to impart curiosity, compassion, and complexity.
You said, “I am only here because of him,
and because of you.
My father insisted I take your class.”
I could hardly breathe.
You said, “He wanted me to remind you
how you changed his life for the better.”