The Teacher to His Students

The traffic light turns green. Your car won’t budge.
You’re either texting or completely blind.
And when you do proceed, you’re slow as fudge.
You’re still engrossed. We’ve come to know your kind.

Or maybe you’re just walking down the street.
The sidewalk’s safe enough to use your phone,
And yet you can’t pick up your own two feet.
Your conversation stops you still as stone.

In bathrooms, too: so damned oblivious,
To piss with one hand while still on your cell.
The flushing renders it invidious
And makes your private time a public hell.

Okay, it’s an addiction—but your doom
If I spot busy thumbs in my classroom.



How Meaning Shifts over Time

Undoable is what they called her plan;
That is, impossible to carry out:
To win the local village’s wealthiest man,
Though he was just a vain, lascivious lout.
She did her best impression of a slut,
Contrived to spill his lager down her dress
And let him fumble all about her but
Maneuvered him to score a drunk success.
It worked: the wedding happened in mid-June.
Her too-tight gown announced a baby soon.
Two decades later, he was seventy-two,
In debt, debentures unrenewable,
His smile in dentures biting her with rue—
She sorely wished her deed undoable.



Portrait of the Old High School English Teacher

He uses words like lest, behoove, indeed
When handing out the rubric for the class,
Boldfaced requirements that one must heed,
Good grammar crucial if one wants to pass.
His office door’s festooned with old-time quotes
Like “gladly would he learn and gladly teach.”
Inside, a mass of papers, books, and notes
Crowds out a window just beyond his reach.
His dog-eared text of Hamlet is a hive
Of scribblings to stir his thoughts, yet he
Has taken in more poets dead than live;
Recites all Dickinson from memory.
His red-penned comments in my margins still
Inspire, scare, and in some strange way thrill.



David Galef has published over two hundred poems in magazines ranging from Light and Measure to The Yale Review and The Gettysburg Review. He’s also published two poetry volumes, Flaws and Kanji Poems, as well as two chapbooks, Lists and Apocalypses. Unable to stop himself, he’s also written fiction, literary essays, and translation, over a dozen books in all. In real life, he directs the creative writing program at Montclair State University. His website is

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4 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    These are three top-notch poems! Apart from the smooth and fluent meter, the subject matter of each is actually interesting, and free from the self-absorbed narcisssism that is the bane of most modern poetry.

    The first one deals with a real problem among dimwit undergraduates today — their fixation on and obsession with their stupid little hand-held devices. The second is a perfect vignette of seduction, pregnancy, marriage, and the ultimate punishment of an evil woman’s venality. And the third is as detailed and sympathetic in its portraiture as “Goodbye, Mr. Chips.”

  2. Sally Cook

    Dear Mr. Galef –

    Ditto to all that Dr. Salemi has said in his comment. Your poems all contain what I call “scope” in a different comment. A combination of technical excellence combined with something worth saying is most welcome here. I hope you will continue to post.

  3. Dave Whippman

    I agree with the other two comments. Skilful work. “Portrait of the Old High School English Teacher” really resonated with me, taking me back to my schooldays of 50-plus years ago, and a vanishing breed of schoolmaster.

    • C.B. Anderson

      It would be hard to disagree, Dave. These two esteemed colleagues of mine have gone through the fire many times over, and they serve no master but the truth. Galef is obviously at one with himself, and has no need to thank those who have tendered him apposite praise.


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