Voices get louder out in the hall,
Raised in anger. Shouts.
And a crowd of students
Rushes away to see it.
Free entertainment! Fight! Fight! FIGHT!
And the two contestants
Hit, grapple, grab hair and yank,
Fall down and wrestle.
The audience laughs and points,
But for those two pummeling each other,
It’s not a joke, as they snarl, pound each other,
Dig fingernails into skin.
And sometimes I have to break it up,
To pry them apart, finger by clutching finger,
And pull them bodily away
From each other.
And they eventually sit down at opposite ends of the office
And I’m left shaking as I go back in to teach.
But I glance back at them – both eager to win at all costs.
Now both losers.
Back in class, we argue.
Because the hallway is where fights are,
But class is for arguments.
We wrestle with ideas. We grapple with reasons.
And everyone joins in,
Because the purpose of argument
Is actually to come to some agreement.
Not to win, but win
The other side over.
We may not succeed, but we respect each other for trying,
And for trying to see the other side’s point of view.
And we don’t throw punches or insults.
One day, she came back from the restroom
Armed with a text
That spurred a fight.
The combatants yell for a moment, and then slam into each other,
Scattering desks and students in their wake.
One girl hides in the air conditioning closet.
Even when we clear the fighters out,
We have to clear the classroom until custodial
Can clean the blood off the floor.
A fight is different than an argument.
Usually they inhabit different arenas
But when fights spill into class,
We need to clean up the blood,
Before everyone can come back out of hiding
And argue again.