Absent-Minded Professor

This lonely figure of not much fun
Strayed out of folklore fifteen years ago
Forever. Now on an autumn afternoon,
While the leaves drift past the office window,
His bright replacement, present-minded, stays
At the desk correcting papers, nor ever grieves
For the silly scholar of the bad old days,
Who’d burn the papers and correct the leaves.

–Howard Nemerov

Howard Nemerov (29 February 1920 – 5 July 1991) was an American poet who was twice Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, from 1963 to 1964 and again from 1988 to 1990. He was for many years a professor at our flyover university and as such used to walk to work past our parent’s house. He wrote a poem called “Walking Down Westgate in the Fall.” It ends with the lines: “Hearing the acorns bang on the roofs of cars/ And bounce and roll along the rainy street.”

I remember that. (The sound of acorns banging on cars.)