First Lesson, Best Lesson

Will Hochman's poem marks the start of a new academic year.

September 8, 2015

“Correct writing is no one’s mother tongue.”

Peter Elbow


Imagine your starfish hands reaching

For ocean floors, tapping attention alive

You discover and reveal yourself in sentences

That only perpetual error can provide


It’s not the unknown that tugs you down

But what you don’t know you don’t know

That swallows your bright ocean whole

With learning lost in mad saliva tides


Swimming out in a line pulls you in deeper

Good or bad, you are twisted into it

Like a diving weight failing release

Leaving you in bubbles of a last breath


Unknown gills hide themselves in adult lungs

I knew all this when I was born;

Now, always, and never

Have I been so glad to be wrong


Will Hochman is professor of English at Southern Connecticut State University.


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