“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by B.A. Modlin

Do read this fabulous poem.  This is (or was) Krista Tippett’s (of On Being fame) email signature as a new personal favorite. I think you will agree. It’s quite wonderful!

What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade
a poem by Brad Aaron Modlin

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark.

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.


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6 Responses to “What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” by B.A. Modlin

  1. Adele Ryan McDowell April 2, 2018 at 6:24 pm #

    Oh, Adele, I would have loved to have heard you imitating your grandfather. You are so fun and I can only imagine the joy and wisdom you imparted to your students. xx

  2. Adele Ryan McDowell April 2, 2018 at 6:22 pm #

    Thank you, Gayook. It is so fun to share such goodies as this poem. xx

  3. Adele Fagon March 24, 2018 at 8:24 am #

    I love this! Just yesterday I was imitating my grandfather’s voice with his Italian accent calling the numbers in the Bingo games we played after dinner on holidays (before we had a TV of course).
    Being a third grade teacher for many years I tried to convey these types of thoughts but wish I could have read this then for more ideas.

  4. Gayook March 23, 2018 at 11:30 pm #


  5. Adele Ryan McDowell March 23, 2018 at 7:23 pm #

    I’m right there with you!!! xx

  6. Na'ama March 23, 2018 at 6:53 pm #

    I. Love. This!