The One and Only Time I Taught a University Poetry Class

—For Virginia

If, today, the years rolled in with the tide
and I had lung enough to swim backwards,

I’d return to that classroom, pull the drowning
out of my twenty-five-year-old self

in such a way that I could explain a metaphor
in a voice that didn’t thrash about the deluge

of unfamiliar faces, their stares more tentacle
than curiosity, as I shifted in your throne,

a packet of poems slipping off my fingertips,
masterly pieces you’d asked me to teach

crashing against my feet every third breath
while you lay in a hospital bed, pondering,

not diagnoses or treatments but poetry
that would, like a new moon, raise the waves

of your students’ minds, steep them in a spectacle
of images, which you’d done for me oceans of times,

and as I, after every attempted analysis, washed up
on the shore of inexperience like a lost sneaker,

I heard the laughter bubbling in your students’
throats, the apologies I’d pour over your shoulder

when you returned, but not once did I hear
the Brazilian melody that would soon ripple,

inconsolably, across every breeze you left behind.