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I Will Not Talk in Class
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I was as bad as the next kid and got punished just the same, writing off what I’d done wrong—
  150 times, 500 times, depending
on the kind of day the teacher was having. I may as well have been writing off “I will not think in
  class” or “I will not believe
social studies is useless.” Sixth-grade study hall had the acoustics of an abandoned warehouse,
  but there were times I could hear
the hiss of the pencil lead raking across the standard-ruled paper as I went about my punishment.
  It moved more easily the blunter

it became, the lead’s line widening, growing lighter, quieter, and soon I was noticing the silvery
  characters, each cursive I different
from the one on the line above, leaning like a crude sketch of a human figure trying to stand
  upright in a fierce wind. The punishment for having words
was to write them, as though writing something down was a way to lodge it into your mind rather
  than a means of casting it out
forever. I didn’t know how anyone else in the room felt about it, but my own voice was being
  rent from my throat

and flattened onto loose leaves of cheap notebook paper, the end product of immature pine trees
  machine harvested and pulped,
acid bathed and bleached nearly white. Anything I might say was as ephemeral as the wind under
  the door. A football coach sat at the teacher’s desk
diagraming pass plays on a legal pad. This was the last year anyone could be compelled to write
  off. From here on out
it was paddlings—they still did that then—and suspension. I had no idea what came after that but
  I knew it was waiting. We outgrow everything,

even our punishments. Hardened to the harshest penalty, there’s always another one out there that
  will put us in our place. Even that day
I could see the penciled I was changing, bent a little more at the start of each new line, some
  trivial sin handwritten and edging down the page.

Bobby C. Rogers  

Bobby C. Rogers is a professor of English and Writer-in-Residence at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. His book Paper Anniversary won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, was nominated for the Poets’ Prize, and received the Arlin G. Meyer Prize in Imaginative Writing.

Copyright © 2013 Louisiana State University Press
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Bobby C. Rogers. "I Will Not Talk in Class." Southern Review 49.4 (2013): 523-523. Project MUSE. Web. 10 Oct. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Rogers, B. C.(2013). I Will Not Talk in Class. Southern Review 49(4), 523. Louisiana State University Press. Retrieved October 10, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Bobby C. Rogers. "I Will Not Talk in Class." Southern Review 49, no. 4 (2013): 523-523. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed October 10, 2013).
T1 - I Will Not Talk in Class
A1 - Bobby C. Rogers
JF - Southern Review
VL - 49
IS - 4
SP - 523
EP - 523
PY - 2013
PB - Louisiana State University Press
SN - 2168-5541
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/southern_review/v049/49.4.rogers.html
N1 - Volume 49, Number 4, Autumn 2013
ER -


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