Fathom 1985



Inside Cover



Pam Heaven (4)
Lex Gigeroff (2)
Joe Blades (3)
Andrew Little (2)
Babila Mutia
Lord Byron (3)
Ajay Heble
Margaret Heneghan
Robyn Gladwin (2)
Sean Bedell (2)
Marin Acker
Thorn Wells
Shandi Mitchell
Moritz Gaede
Lesley Wilson
Jane Everitt
David E. Ayer


Ajay Heble
Lori MacLean


Elizabeth Stephen


Lori MacLean



English 540

My thoughts clutter my mind, weaving their way through a twisted chasm of indecision, vagueness, redundancy, until each seemingly ceases its toil and returns to oblivion before expression can be achieved. Perfection, we strive for! The cardinal sins must be given due reverence – avoid disjointed structure, repetitiveness. Instead, clarity, detail, organization. Prove it, know it.

My pencil dangles from my fingers. I sigh and read upon my desk:
It seems to me that we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.

(George Eliot)

     The nearly illegible signature reads: purpose in life, by CD. Here, flagrant plagiarism etched in wood for eternity. What of the possible fines and court costs? Eliot would be surprised – ­Georgey baby, darling of the new renaissance in English appreciation which has become rampant among the student masses. Maybe I could write sensationalized newspaper headlines: “George Finally Takes Educational Stand” or “Elly­babes, We’re Behind Ya!...”
     Suddenly, silence. I am jolled back to reality as the intellectual exchange between teacher and student, a barrage of thought, unintelligible to the rest, has ended. I shift uneasily in my seat trying to avoid the perceptive gaze of my teacher ­why those intense blue eyes? – as he asks for a response to another mundane question, this time on the use of satire as political criticism in Books One and Two of Gulliver’s Travels.... Must I think?
     Yes, I shall, and plan my response before I dare raise my hand. My arguments must be supported with evidence from the text. I should know page references for supportive material and convey it with clarity and confidence. Forget the um’s, you know’s and like’s. We are here to prove something – ­English Students for Better Expression in Tensely Competitive Classroom Situations. Maybe we could be chartered.
     I am prepared for the firing squad; the criticism of my argument by the more vocal members of my class will be swift and abrupt. The teacher – that colossal representation of general knowledge – may even intercede if my points are completely out of line. Teachers always seem to add something anyway, making my concrete argument mush. So much for carefully planned responses; my thoughts are twisted and corrupted by differing opinions and observations. Is anything well defined? Ten out of ten is an unachievable goal and judgement becomes a matter of opinion.
     Thus, for the humble tyro of intellectual argumentation this is no time for creativity. Point to page numbers. Prove the author made the point you are arguing. Know it backwards and forwards, and be familiar with its direct translation into at least a dozen foreign languages to satisfy all questions of appropriate interpretation....
     Sweat dampens my palms as I think of confidence, self­esteem, assertion - the-give-it-one-for-the-gipper speech to myself. The teacher’s eyes quickly scan the room, careful to notice who is the most uncomfortable, or the more obvious victim, the person smugly staring at him, defying his authority, questioning his intelligence. I cautiously raise my hand to answer the question but someone else is acknowledged. Damn! I was prepared for that question. I could compile a thesis on it. There’s an idea! “To all Ph.D. English students – ­one used thesis – Political Criticism in Gulliver’s Travels,” price firm.
     I drop my head and stare at my blank page – so much for exact notetaking. To mar it now with ink smears, scratches and scribbles is beyond thought. Instead, mental retention of the facts. The key to success in life – remember to cross the street at the corner and raise your hand before you do so....
     My reverie is interrupted as I hear my name. The class shifts its attention in my direction – critical eyes, eyes judging my appearance, my mannerisms, my expression. Scrutiny under a powerful magnification. I am asked if I have anything to add. Chance! Seize it, prove something to myself. I stammer a feeble response, “well, uhm ... no.” The bell rings. The hollow sounds of crashing books and distant voices clouds my thoughts. I remain seated and I still sit at my desk ten minutes later. I read the poem on the desk again and know my hunger – for release from this stifling sense of intimidation. Maybe tomorrow, maybe never....


last updated August 17, 2007 | © 2007 Fathom Publishing
poetry, prose, and artwork © individual authours | website created by Alana Paul