“Blinded by Science”
My 12th-grade physics teacher was in love
with atoms and with the cousins of atoms – quarks,
quasars, mesons, neutrinos, positrons. How can you not
love them? he asked. We looked at him like we always
looked at him – in awe, hoping that he had some kind
of social life other than designing experiments in his bathroom
with five brands of bar soaps, checking temperatures
and holding the power of the shower head constant
in order to control all variables but one. Look for patterns
he pleaded. They help us understand the data.
He unraveled mysteries and lassoed the parts,
brought them together into the corral of comprehension.
I loved Mr. Qweagy, the way he rubbed his
hind legs together and made noise like a cicada,
ready to emerge from a 17-year-old nap, pushing
his rib cage up around his throat. I swear he chirped
one day and flew across the room. All of us saw it, felt it,
but knew that no one would ever believe it. Why should they?
Review by Philip Kirsch
Who? Mr. Qweagy in his obsessive pursuits, or his students in their devotion? I had a teacher like that once, in math; every lucky student has had one who transferred his passion for the discipline to otherwise disinterested novices. The poet’s physics teacher is so well-drawn (“Look for patterns he pleaded”; he brought mysteries “into the corral of comprehension”) that we know him as the poet did, and so by extension remember when we were blinded, brought into the magic of our special teacher whose myth we then extended, stories “that no one would ever believe.”
Review by Nancy Sobanik
Mr. Qweagy- the 12th grade physics teacher with a strange name to match his eccentric persona- bursts into life in John Dorrah’s poem with the passion and understanding that a good teacher can infect his student’s with. Subatomic particles are rolled out with alliterative consonance like a foreign language- “quarks, quasars, mesons, neutrinos, positrons”. Especially enjoyable was the comparison of Mr. Qweagy’s mannerisms with a cicada, and then a bird. These images highlight the exceptionality of a particularly important person that one may be graced to find in their life.
Review by Claire Scott
The opening line really pulled me in. The description of the physics teacher is terrific. I am not sure about “awe” since the speaker seems ambivalent about the teacher. I love “cousins of atoms” and the list of subatomic particles. I laughed at “hoping that he had some kind/of social life other than designing experiments in his bathroom…” I really liked “lassoed the parts” and “corral of comprehension.” I felt the shift to Mr. Qweagy (a great name!) was a little abrupt. I missed why the choice of “cicada,” but love the image of him flying across the room. I wondered about deleting “Why should they?” but I think it does add a good twist, so keep it! Thanks for such an original poem!
Review by Massimo Fantuzzi
As a primary school teaching assistant (my current day job), I can confirm every word of this poem: for the most part, teachers are insects of the talking type and with the most limited and obsessive range of interests.
It remains unknown at which point of their career this metamorphosis/pupation has occurred: perhaps during the latter years of university or perhaps during teacher training. It is also not fully understood how they can continue to lead an apparent life of normalcy: perhaps, something to do with those inset days, probably just an excuse to gather around piles of rotting fruit where they feast and mate, thus securing the next generation of ministerial educators.
More to the point of this poem, and the students, and children particularly; again, spot on: they can see right through the travesty, yet they don’t seem alarmed or sickened. As the only human adult in the class, I witness that, day in and day out: taught by bugs of every shape and attribute, roaches and critters of every size and nauseating habit, children genuinely don’t make a big deal of it. I have come to believe that they simply don’t know any better and soon get used to the salivating jaws drooling marks on their books (do teachers also write using green ink in the States?) while inquisitive antennae feverishly tap the surrounding area, multitasking in sickening haste.
Growing up, that window over their mentors’ real nature slowly closes; the memories become blurred, a presupposed logical assumption prevails, and those silhouettes turn human again (unless you’re a poet, that is, like our friend here). That feeling, however, will remain: when you walk into a school and you are confronted with that artificial environment, those polite looks of plasterboard, those Blu Tack displays of bi-dimensional representation of reality, bright colors, no shades, teachers, Mrs this, Sir that… deep down, something doesn’t feel right, you know you can’t trust them.
‘Poor Pinocchio! I really pity you!…’
‘Why do you pity me?’
‘Because you are a puppet and, what is worse, because you have a wooden head.’
At these last words Pinocchio jumped up in a rage, and snatching a wooden hammer from the bench he threw it at the Talking-cricket.
Perhaps he never intended it to hit him; but unfortunately it struck him exactly on the head, so that the poor Cricket had scarcely breath to cri-cri-cri, and then he remained dried up and flattened against the wall. (Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio)
Review by Jared Pearce
More than a good teacher, we all love being inspired, being led to a place where all the so-called rules fail, and we existed because of hope and, it seems, sheer luminescence. And that’s what I love about this poem; I don’t know Mr. Qweagy, and some of my science teachers weren’t all that interesting, but I’ve certainly known the wonder and sense of incredibleness some intergalactic person can bring.
Review by Mary Giudice
I have a weakness for teacher poems, and this one is truly satisfying and endearing and weird. Maybe “normal” people are content to let others love whatever they please, but teachers like this aren’t normal. His yearning to have his students love what he loves– to see the wonder he sees– is so well drawn! In the end the tired teenagers see a different kind of magic–surrealism–and their love is for the teacher more than for the atoms… but I’d still say this is a win for Mr. Queagy. And a win for Dorroh for creating this wise, kind, funny poem.
Review by Nadine Ellsworth-Moran
As a reader, I found this poem to be fresh and interesting, taking an unexpected turn in the second strophe. While the poem has some prose elements, I would still refer to it as free-verse. The poet has created a vibrant character whose emphatic outbursts lend a certain charm to the teacher. The students’ responses in the first strophe are what one might expect, but the flight of fancy that overtakes the second strophe is surprising and welcome. I love the juxtaposition of science and fantasy and feel that they hold together well in this poem. I also thought the ending – with a question – was a good choice since a question is the way all mysteries and scientific research begin as well. Nicely crafted!