I reclined sluggishly as ol' Mrs. Bridge went on about some brilliant poet in her strong Manhattanese. My consciousness failed me as my eyes caught the drift of some gentle clouds from the room's window and I floated away with them into some wonderful daze...
I, caught up in my afternoon dream, wasn't aware that the ol' girl had discovered my absence; she notified me of her discovery quite instantly with that strong Manhattanese and her bold cerulean eyes.
“Mr. White,” she said delightfully, “are we havin' an outta body experience?”
I turned my head to her voice in bewilderment, and a few polite laughs came from the crowd.
“Let's try to stay focused, huh, Mr. White,” she grinned, fantastically.
I shook my head, “I-I don't think I can.” Some obscure voice said from my lips.
To this day I'm lost as to why I said this, and, perhaps, there's some parallel between afternoon dazes and daring advances on authority; however, I'm an expert of none and have simply declared it as an afternoon impulse under the influence of clouds.
She smiled a minute with those eyes and her ferocious auburn mane.
“And, Mr. White, and why is that?”
I was a trifle baffled at her response, having been expecting a witty remark and an invitation to the office. I swallowed and attempted to answer her, but choked on my words.
“Yes?” she inquired, grinning now.
I paused, collecting my answer, then said slowly,“It's just that I don't care much about this Shelley guy or whatever his name is.” The room lolled to a horrific silence.
Eddies of thought swirled around in her irises. She started towards me.
“Why is that Mr. White?” She looked at my keenly and added, softly, “I'm curious.”
I paused studying her delightfully interested face.
“Because – because... like, he lived two hundred years ago or something, right?” I swallowed, collecting and organizing my scattered thoughts, “or maybe it was more, but what does some dead poet have to teach me anyway?” She was fiddling her hands together and had begun to gently pace back and forth. I added, “A couple hundred years changes a lot about the world Mrs. Bridge... I just don't see why anybody should even begin to care about this Shelley guy.” I felt the crowd's collective stares warm my face.
Mrs. Bridge hummed to herself and pivoted towards me.
“Mr. White,” she raised a finger, “Do you enjoy history?” I looked oddly at her. “It's not a trick question Mr. White, do you enjoy history?”
I nodded slowly.
“Lemme ask you somethin' then: does history repeat itself?”
I paused, pointlessly, and once again nodded.
She bobbed her head and asked who makes up history. I told her man does. At this she bit her lip and nodded happily.
“So,” she drew the word out, “how do we know about history then, kid?”
I proposed writing and she concurred. She then went on to ask what everyone in history has in common. I had no answer.
“They're all dead,” she said in blunt jest, anonymous giggles came from the crowd.
I shifted in my desk, leaning forward, using my arms to support my head.
She went on to tell me that poetry was greater than history in that it not only cataloged events, but emotions. She called it a “history in human emotion”.
“Tell me, Mr. White,” she whispered – the crowd's and my ears perked up like foxes, “What does this Shelley guy really have to tell you?”
I turned over the previous five minutes, but drew no conclusion to her question. I shrugged.
Her voice exploded in the room's vacuum of silence.
“Everything! Mr. White, everything!” she continued passionately, “These dead poets got a million things to say. You wanna know why Mr. White because man repeats himself. Not only in history, but in emotion, in feeling, in expression. And their written words – key word, Mr. White, written – transcend time and live beyond the grave. Poetry, I mean this, is the closest thing this world's had to divinity since Jesus Christ. It's powerful stuff, really powerful. It has the ability to end famines, to change cultures, to stop wars. What else do you know that can do that? ... Mr. White, poetry isn't written by dead men.” She briefly paused to catch her breath. “Poetry is written by man's spirit. That's why it transcends and that's why it's so divine, and that's why, Mr. White, you can't tell me Shelley has nothin' for ya' because he does, because you're human and because your spirit needs to be stirred. That's really what poetry is about, Mr. White, stirring the soul.”
The eddies had become whirl pools. I shifted, rubbing my sweaty hands together and looking at my petrified arm hairs and felt my heart's rapid throbbing. Then at once I felt something beyond the sweat and hair and beating; I felt a warmth formulating from the front of my head as my brain soaked in Mrs. Bridge's words. The warmth trickled down my being and I stirred, beautifully and tenderly. The words of the human spirit, the words of poetry had fluttered into my being and I embraced it utterly and entirely.