Once in a while a student question just sticks with me -- usually the ones I don't have answers for. Last Friday (now Sunday) following the final assembly (eighth grade, last period, we all survived) after I had reminded the kids of the rights and responsibilities of free speech, revealed personal facts about my life, joked and urged them to put their own thoughts and feelings down on paper and share them with others, I asked for questions.
"Who are you wearing?"
I had to ask for a restatement -- not what was I wearing, but who?
Is this a sign of too much time spent aside the red carpet with Joan Rivers? Over exposure to People Magazine? The world has an elevated temperature, the country has been visited by plagues of winds and floods and fire, the heads of the senate and the congress are being investigated for illegal activities, the country is a war. . . and there was no discussion about the world, the content of my poems, the content of my soul or the student's, all he wanted to know was what corporate entity was on the label of my wrapper.
At first I thought it was such an insignificant question, I didn't even pause for a response, so many hands in the air. But the more I think about it, the more important the question becomes. Had I answered the question, would that have changed the boy's view of me? Colored it? I never intended my wardrobe to provide that ah-ha moment poets search for.
I didn't have a good answer.
I still don't.
But I can't erase the question or the young man's face from my vision of myself or the world. I guess today, that student is who I am wearing and to tell you the truth, the ensemble kind of itches.