ISSN 1556-4975

OffCourse Literary Journal

 Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998


"Section Men", by Barry Seiler

I sat in a maze
of carrels dreaming.
Around me colleagues
sat at their desks
before stacks of essays
in search of error.
From time to time
I heard my neighbor
talking to his shrink.
Doc, he cried,
I can’t find anyone,
anyone for tennis.
This Saturday.
No one liked him.
Why should they?
His ex-wife said.
Two semesters and I
never saw his face.
I was a section man,
a term from Harvard
I found in a freshman
comp reader in an
essay by Paul Goodman.
Our creative writing man
dropped dead Easter Sunday.
Burly, bearded, a red and blue
anchor on each forearm,
a hard drinking Hemingway sort,
proud papa of six. Irish
Catholic whispered the Chair.
Of course I took the course.
She forgot she promised it
to me first. Now,
over his dead body,
it was mine. No one
showed when I showed
up for his next class.
Very strange, whispered the Chair
and returned to her office
leaving me to unravel
the mystery.
Accompanied by a campus cop
I went to his carrel
to peruse his papers.
They were part of his estate
and could not be removed
without his widow’s permission.
I could find nothing,
no notes, not even
a roster to exhume
from the mess of papers
scattered over the desk.
The poor man had taken
every secret to the grave.
Later I learned
he canceled one class
a week so everyone
could stay home and create.
I had to admire him
for his creativity.
Next day the department
secretary was instructed
to phone his students
and break the news that
their professor had passed.


Barry Seiler has published four books of poetry, three of them by University of Akron Press. Frozen Falls, the most recent, was a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize. He lives on the outskirts of Roxbury NY, in Hubbell’s Corners, in blessed obscurity, with his wife Dian and cats Homer and Milton.

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