“The Silence”

Dear Faculty,

On September 15th, per tradition, Dr. Andy Jones read a poem he wrote for the 2017 Summer Institute on Teaching and Technology while we were tempted by the delicious smells of shawarma wafting across the hallway. If you are interested, check out the poem below. Luckily for us all, the poem finally concluded, and we all enjoyed a delicious lunch of shawarma and baklava.

Alex Rockey

“The Silence”

by Andy Jones

The silence, it hangs in the air.

A question is asked in the classroom,

and for once, it is not rhetorical,

a thousand correct and self-congratulatory

answers swimming in the professor’s mind.

No, this time, the question is posed to the students,

but the students do not speak.


Instead, they look up from their phones

And shift in their seats, almost in unison,

together making what anthropodologists

studying the coordinated movements of the legs

of millipedes call a multichronal rhythm,

like a subtle Mexican wave in a soccer stadium,

one where the fans seem unwilling to cheer,

or to make eye contact with the professor, or each other,

lest they be singled out, and asked to take the field.


The confident teacher knows that

a great risk has been taken,

for as the expert, she has momentarily paused.

She has galvanized the silence

in the formerly safe classroom. It sparks.

On this field, let’s call it a quarter-mile running track,

a baton has been lifted, poised,

and extended, almost balletically,

by the exhausted sprinter,

but it does not yet find a willing taker.

Which one of you is on my team? she seems to ask.


The silence is uncomfortable, but necessary.

I am making room in this classroom for you,

the instructor suggests, smiling with uneasy anticipation.

It is almost delicious, the hungry tension

waiting to be broken, such as by the student

who can’t take it anymore, risking much

to speak, to make his learning public;

or, waiting to be broken like the fourth wall

broken by the poet who keeps reading

his poem at an academic conference, even though delicious

shawarma can be smelled, can be sensed

like a silent student’s insight can be sensed,

in the next room, complete with baklava.

Who will it be, the poet, the student,

or the hungry professor, who breaks the delicious silence?

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