Valuable Lessons


Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash


Poet, Brad Aaron Modlin, imaginatively describes valuable lessons we could have all used in fourth grade. Can you think of a few more you would have liked to learn?


What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade

~Written by Brad Aaron Modlin


Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen

to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,


how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took

questions on how not to feel lost in the dark


After lunch she distributed worksheets

that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s


voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep

without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—


something important—and how to believe

the house you wake in is your home. This prompted


Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing

how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,


and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts

are all you hear; also, that you have enough.


The English lesson was that I am

is a complete sentence.


And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation

look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,


and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking

for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.


Brad Aaron Modlin, is the Reynolds Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He holds a PhD from Ohio University and an MFA from Bowling Green State. His poetry collection is Everyone at This Party Has Two Names.