Night Class

A weekly poem, read by the author.
April 23 1998 3:30 AM

Night Class

Night Class


By Andrew Hudgins

Advertisement

(posted Wednesday, April 22)

To hear the poet read "Night Class," click here.

He'd pull a yellow clipping from his wallet,
and while you read it he stared in your face.
The other students scanned the clipping, nodded,
smiled as best they could, and gave it back
to the pudgy, sweaty boy, who grinned at them
expectantly.
                        They complained, and finally
I stopped him after class.
                                                  "Uh, Mister Kearny,
maybe you shouldn't, uh, share with your friends
about shooting your father."
                                            "I didn't shoot him."
"You didn't?"
                         "No sir, I hit him with a bat.
See, he was whipping on my mom again
and whipping on me too and then one day
I just got tired of being whipped on
and I hit him with my uncle's metal bat
and just kept hitting till he didn't move.
I didn't mean to kill him, just make him stop."
His high voice trembled, his eyes were fixed on mine.
"I got my picture in the paper." He reached
back toward his hip. "You want to see the clipping?"

"That clipping, Mister Kearny, that's the problem.
People get very nervous around somebody
who's killed somebody--no matter why he killed them.
Now maybe that's unfair, but if you think
about it I'm sure you'll understand it's true."

He stared down the emptying hall
at a few students heading to their cars,
their late jobs, home.
                                        "Does that make sense to you?"

The twin fire-doors wheezed shut behind two girls.
His face deepened to a face I've come
to think of, on other faces, as ancient, accepting.

"That makes sense to you, now doesn't it?"
I said, a little sharply.

                                        "Yeah, I guess."
He was whispering.
                                 "Good, Peter. I'm glad.
Now don't forget the paper that's due Friday."

He pushed his way into the stairwell. I waited
until I heard the outside door clank shut
before I followed. I wanted to be the one
whose leaving let the hall fall into silence--
silence, which I have, from talking, learned to love.
But what, when no one loved me, have I done
but talk, talk, talk until I've said, like Peter,
the thing I shouldn't say or, as tonight,
until I've said exactly what I've had to say.
And as I hurtled home past dark, tires wailing,
I howled with every song on the radio,
screamed some teen-age stranger's stupid words,
shrieked somebody else's rage, somebody's love
till I could bear my own voice, and its silence.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.