The Other Writers Block


A student stands in my doorway

confessing some desperate

“blockage in my creative faculties”

and before I can inquire

if she really talks like that

or if she picked it up, like Strep,

by listening too closely to exalted professors

at our “institution of higher learning,”

she tilts her head and does something

funny with her eyes and then

her lips, and says I wouldn’t

understand, that nothing like that

could ever happen to me.



Remembering unfinished poems

from the beginning of the term,

I try to name once again

the stack of papers on the front

right corner of the desk,

I call it “a mountain,” then

“dunghill.” The phrase “a ringing”

telephone I don’t want to answer,”

runs through my head. Next

it’s “a bouquet.” The pen scratches

on a piece of scrap “the tears

of black desire in a white sea,”

and crosses it out. Finally, I hear

“sprouting voices singing the irradiated

waltz in the polluted compost

of the twentieth century.” The hour

passed, I put away my pen and

amble to my morning composition

class, leaving the “metaphors”

ungraded and unremarked.



Even though it’s my office hour,

I imagine that, if I shut

the door and stanch the flow

of words not my own, some trickle

from the reservoir of either hope or

memory might moisten the dry

arroyos of “my personal voice.”

The lessons, “write everyday,”

“write the things you care about,”

“write from your own perspective”

begin to crowd the corridor and soon

one of them gets rowdy and rips

from the closed door my favorite

wry New Yorker cartoon.

Then all hell breaks loose and pretty

soon James Wright come barreling

in screaming, “I have wasted my life,”

and Rilke returns from the realm

of angles, whispering, “You must

your life change.” I begin

to envision myself an astronaut

or a penitent, anything cut off

and alone, a piece of string,

an insect husk. And just when I’m

about to yell they must silence

themselves and stand in line

like everything else, someone knocks,

and before I can ignore “him or her,”

a student opens the door and asks,

“Have you graded my essay, yet?”


from Teaching English in the Two-Year College, and from As Long As We Need (Black Buzzard Press)

For my thoughts about writing this poem, follow this link.

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About lymangrant

Lyman Grant is a professor of creative writing and humanities at Austin Community College. He has work at ACC since 1978. He is the author or editor of two textbooks, two books relating to Texas literature, three volumes and a chapbook of poetry. Recently he traveled the United States for a year in a 34-foot RV 5th wheel trailer with his wife and two younger sons.