the lament of the high school teacher

Seemingly as soon as it had started,
It was over.

I watch it happen,
Helpless.

This one writes the most searingly intense poetry
in the obscure style of T.S. Eliot --
She hates school so much,
I'm never sure she'll be there tomorrow,
I never understand quite what is going on.

A man and wife tell their daughter at the dinner table
That they are going to get divorced,
While she watches her whole world fall apart,
Daddy no longer lives at home.

Or their fathers kill themselves
On far away Asian islands,
Or don't talk to their daughters for years
Without any explanation whatsoever --

I want to drive to these people's houses
And knock some sense into adults
Who act like teenagers, in the worst sense of that word,
While their teenaged children act like adults -

A daughter goes to court to emancipate herself
From her mentally ill mother,
And swears she will go to college,
No matter what --
I fill out a form for a judge
In some faceless, nameless courtroom
In juvenile court.

A young man's father knocks his son around
With open hand punches and challenges him further to
"step into the backyard and settle this like men,"
and I call child protective services
when he writes me a letter telling me about
it.

A girl I have known since her first day of high school,
Back when she was 14 but seemed younger,
Well, now she's 17 and has her first boyfriend -
Opening up like a flower in the light of first love,
To someone who not long after informs her he
Needs some time to think,
That they don't share the same values.

I watch it all happen,
I know everyone involved,
I watch if from on high,
And I can do nothing.

It is too much.
Everything is falling apart.
I want everyone to behave,
And everyone to get along -
To learn and be happy.

But everyone seems miserable,
Tortured, wounded,

This one suspended for drinking at a dance,
That one's father I know drinks much too much --

These people were giggly freshmen,
14-year olds barely out of middle school -
You could joke around with them all day long,
But the skies have grown cloudy just three years later -

They are not really different people now,
But they are more complex,
And seemingly more unhappy -
They stare down glumly at their desks -

In Advanced Placement classes,
The crucial junior year of high school,
The year of trial and testing
universitites inspecting everything -
I have to push push push -
No more freshmen fun and games.

I think I liked it better the other way.

But nobody asked me
And there really is no turning back the clock,
It wouldn't work, anyway -
They aren't children anymore,
Who are you trying to kid?

That one was a hungry dog
who had been fed well,
and glowed in the aftermath of love,
As happy as any young man I had ever seen -
He treated her like a princess,
Until she found someone else,
Even before she told him:

The casual brutality of the young,
They know not what they do -
Everything is so intense,
Everything is a trial.

That one's father killed himself
When his son was only six,
Carbon dioxide poisioning -
What kind of legacy is that?
I can do nothing.

This one's conversations
With her mother are a string
of screaming matches
nobody wins.

What the hell is going on?
Why is it so difficult?

I am helpless.

And all my lessons
Meaningless.