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M. Degas Teaches Art & Science At Durfee Intermediate School--Detroit, 1942 Analysis



Author: poem of Philip Levine Type: poem Views: 11

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He made a line on the blackboard,

one bold stroke from right to left

diagonally downward and stood back

to ask, looking as always at no one

in particular, "What have I done?"

From the back of the room Freddie

shouted, "You've broken a piece

of chalk." M. Degas did not smile.

"What have I done?" he repeated.

The most intellectual students

looked down to study their desks

except for Gertrude Bimmler, who raised

her hand before she spoke. "M. Degas,

you have created the hypotenuse

of an isosceles triangle." Degas mused.

Everyone knew that Gertrude could not

be incorrect. "It is possible,"

Louis Warshowsky added precisely,

"that you have begun to represent

the roof of a barn." I remember

that it was exactly twenty minutes

past eleven, and I thought at worst

this would go on another forty

minutes. It was early April,

the snow had all but melted on

the playgrounds, the elms and maples

bordering the cracked walks shivered

in the new winds, and I believed

that before I knew it I'd be

swaggering to the candy store

for a Milky Way. M. Degas

pursed his lips, and the room

stilled until the long hand

of the clock moved to twenty one

as though in complicity with Gertrude,

who added confidently, "You've begun

to separate the dark from the dark."

I looked back for help, but now

the trees bucked and quaked, and I

knew this could go on forever.






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