Wisdom’s Passing

by Diana Goetsch

Diana Goetsch

The first time I heard about the tree in the forest
I was in 8th grade music class.
Short, plump, goateed Mr. Warner

drew a giant ear, a felled trunk and said,
There is no sound unless I’m there to hear it.
Then paused so we could write that in our notebooks.

Andy Schecter wrote, How the hell can he know?
tore out the page and passed it around.
Poor Mr. Warner, overmatched by 13-year-olds

who use, not arguments, but infallible
bullshit detectors, on tilt since the day
he read from his unfinished dissertation

on The Beatles, stopping for us to copy
his words verbatim. Down the hall
Mr. Stetbacher told his Social Studies class

there were only three races of people—
Caucasian, African, and “Mongoloid”—
which made the two Puerto Ricans in the school

feel even more left out. It was hard to tell
Stetbacher’s race — his face looked white
but his afro was big and tight enough

to catch pencils. To us he was more fat
than anything. Mr. Hamdallah
was Palestinian, what ever that was.

Never take a job off the books — his advice,
repeated daily, was all we could hear
through his accent. I can’t recall what subject

he taught, neither could he, but it’s hard to dislike
a man who sings “Pennies from Heaven” as he
enters the room every day drunk on life.

Miss Bix, the new health teacher all the boys
and even some of the girls wanted to bone,
tried desperately and unsuccessfully to get us

to believe rape had nothing to do with sex.
I’m thankful for these dedicated teachers,
men and women who forced us to reach

our own conclusions, theirs being so asinine,
fostering self-trust, so we could tackle
the important questions of our age:

whether Rebecca Flanagan had hairy armpits,
if the red head on the Aviance perfume
commercial was really Mike Burton’s mom,

and why Pete Falciano, who could bench the universal,
showed up each Monday with new bruises—
questions you couldn’t find answers to in any book.

As for Mr. Warner, he went on to complete
his research on the overrated rock group,
put a Dr. in front his name, and put that name

at the top of a column he penned for the local
gazette, sharing truths only he seemed
to possess, such as how the Vietnam War

spawned a new generation of homosexuals
by depriving boys of their fathers.
He called the column “Wisdom’s Passing”—

and it certainly was, long before Reagan
said, Facts are stupid things, before Clinton
didn’t inhale, and before everyone declared

a War on Terror—as if you could
bomb an idea, any more than you can
silence a falling forest with a theory.

Last updated November 30, 2022