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POETRY

Blake at the Winter Solstice

Invigilating my last Blake exam
alone with a blonde leggy Swedish girl
wearing jeans and a modish black sweater
who has been granted permission to begin early
in five hours she’ll be flying home for Christmas
(we both have the sniffles).

A crepuscular calm has descended over the campus—
over the virgin snowfall, the darkening winter greenery,
and the androgynous clock tower
whose carillon even now begins playing, softly—
then abruptly ceases.

One of the window panes begins vibrating violently
without breeze or other apparent cause (a minor earth tremor?)

The last time this happened—four, five years ago, same room—
another of my students (a Blake scholar’s son)
wordlessly opened his briefcase,
removed a roll of masking tape and scissors,
cut off a piece and pasted it over
a corner of the window—thus stopping the vibration—
then resumed writing his exam (applause).

I mention this to the Swedish girl
who is probably thinking of glogg and Golgonooza
and (being a man without masking tape)
try opening a louver, which somehow does the trick . . .

Now the others swarm in with back packs, water bottles, pens—
all save one, who was assaulted at knifepoint
and limped into class the next day (aegrotat)—

altogether armed with the knowledge
that it is dangerous to read Blake
and more dangerous not to.

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