Friday Afternoon Requiem

for Robert Zimmerman

by Allen Guest


I hope Bob Dylan dies on

a sunny Friday afternoon in October,

say three o’clock or so, when

I’m looking for an excuse to stop

grading calculus tests.  Upon getting

the news, I’ll pack my things up, lock

the door to my windowless office, and

head out for the east side of campus,

where I park my car.

I’ll walk slowly beneath

the blue-diamond sky, thumbs hooked

under the shoulder straps of my heavy

backpack; head up, squinting

as my eyes adjust

to the perfect tree-splintered light

that arrives on Fridays in the fall.


I’ll take the long route, the one

that passes the dorms.

I’ll hope to hear music drifting

from open windows,

maybe hear nineteen-year-old

boys shouting “how does it feel?” in

drunken unison, maybe even

catch a whiff of marijuana

and revolution in the air.

And no doubt I will be disappointed

to find closed windows and

clean air on our

smoke-free, revolution-free campus.


I’ll probably stop

a group of students out

walking and talking excitedly

about the upcoming football game.  

I’ll ask them if they know

the Sage of Hibbing has left us.

I’ll try to explain that he, like Nostradamus, knew

all along what was going

to happen to them,

happen to me,

happen to everyone, everywhere.

He excavated

all that is holy,

all that is hollow,

and laid lessons out in song

like shards of ancient pottery

in a museum display case.


I suspect the students will

just back away slowly,

start texting friends about their

afternoon encounter

with a crazy professor,

and maybe, if they

are a bit curious, wonder

who Hibbing is.


And when I get to my car

on that fateful afternoon,

I’ll start it up, open all

the windows, turn

the stereo up good

and loud, let my story

be sung once again.

And again I’ll wonder

how he knew

that some would indeed

become mathematicians,

and somewhere, some

became carpenter’s wives, 

doing what they,

what we

do with our lives,

the pieces

of broken pottery, separated

on a dark night,

tangled up

in our own

shades of blue. 

Allen Guest is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Clemson University, where he teach courses in the calculus sequence for science and engineering majors. He tries to bring the exactness of mathematics to his poetry, but he invariably fails. He hopes the attempt, however, brings a certain clarity of image to his work.


August 2018

© 2020 by The Esthetic Apostle