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I wear a coat and tie

I stand stone-like before them

they stare at me, they yawn, I am shit

the course is bonehead english

bonehead is two rungs below English One-A

the place is Austin, the University of Texas, the pinnacle of learning

my official position is teaching assistant, a lowly TA in a drip-dry suit

my real job is the elusive phd

for money I teach writing

I know nothing of teaching

I know nothing of writing

my job is to raise these yawners up from certain death

the main teaching tool is the familiar essay

five paragraphs, one intro, one conclusion, three examples

I am 25 years old

the suit is a Haspel, drip-dry

the shirt is an oxford cloth button down

my brogans hurt my feet

my lectures fall on dead ears

I am dying here

six weeks into the term, I leave the suit at home

I get out from behind the desk and invade the aisles

I enter the sacred space of the yawners

close the distance between the priest and the congregation

I find out who’s in my room

we circle words—nouns in red, verbs in green, adjectives in black, pronouns in purple

the act of circling pulls the writers closer to the page

when they connect the circles—green to green, red to red—they feel the webwork of language

feeling the webwork, they write better

I make it through

because they found their language by circling words on the page

and when they found their words, the teaching was easy