I don’t know what it is about Howard Nemerov’s education poems…maybe it’s his honesty. Do all poets speak the unspeakable for the mute? See for the unseeing?

To David, About His Education

Howard Nemerov


The world is full of mostly invisible things,

And there is no way but putting the mind’s eye,

Or its nose, in a book, to find them out,

Things like the square root of Everest

Or how many times Byron goes into Texas,

Or whether the law of the excluded middle

Applies west of the Rockies. For these

And the like reasons, you have to go to school

And study books and listen to what you are told,

And sometimes try to remember. Though I don’t know

What you will do with the mean annual rainfall

On Plato’s Republic, or the calorie content

Of the Diet of Worms, such things are said to be

Good for you, and you will have to learn them

In order to become one of the grown-ups

Who sees invisible things neither steadily nor whole,

But keeps gravely the grand confusion of the world

Under his hat, which is where it belongs,

And teaches small children to do this in their turn.