Note: I began every class with a prayer when I taught in Catholic high school. When I moved to the public sector, I could no longer do so. As a tribute to author J.D. Salinger when I heard of his death, I offered the closest thing to a prayer in all of my English courses, hence the inspiration for "A Moment of Silence for J.D. Salinger."
A MOMENT OF SILENCE
- for J. D. Salinger -
The sea of almost-Holdens and near-Phoebes
waltzed in and found their seats.
They took final not-so-furtive glimpses
at their phones before the imaginary bell rang.
I began with a moment of silence for you.
The back rows wondered Is this for real?
Didn’t I read something by him
in high school?
Yet no one dared text.
No cell sang a raucous tune.
The front row bowed their heads.
Fingers laced, they prayed fervently for
your eternal soul.
Where are you now, exactly?
Agnostic Joe, big blue eyes,
silently questioned my request.
But remembering the day he discovered
the edge of your crazy cliff,
decided not to protest aloud.
After all, it’s just a moment, he thought.
I, too, bowed my head. Reverent example.
I prayed there were missing manuscripts
in your basement vault.
I prayed we could meet Franny’s daughters
and see Seymour’s sons.
The silence was interrupted by the last Holden
shuffling in late. Why isn’t my professor professing?
He joined the collective moment
willing to learn from the places in between words.
Mr. Salinger, please know we took that moment
for you, and I hope you are well.
Where ever you are.
This poem originally appeared in Teaching English in the Two-Year College (March 2011)
© 2018 Lisa Wiley
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