They are done with poetry, they say, and in spite of myself I have to agree: as usual, the villanelles were deeply compelling but the epics lacked, well, a certain epicity.  We read in earnest, and I made them laugh and grimace with plot summaries and gory details from the sections we had to skip for reasons of time and sensitivity.  Someday, someday, I will be able to open their eyes to the desperate beauty of Homer the way a professor once did for me.  For now, I revel in the small steps forward: the student who wrote with surprising conviction and gravity about an epic match between football teams, and the fact that most of them can at least differentiate between Achilles and Agamemnon.

Today we begin something new: a new set of texts I will painstakingly select read and reread, agonize about how to introduce and discuss them.  I will have to talk them down from the ledges of convoluted plot and melodrama, convince them that characters with slowly-developed depth are the only ones we can mentally invest in.  I will scour my shelves for new and fresh excerpts, authors they will not have read, premises they will find absurd and inspiring.

But not just yet.  First we will all take a much-deserved break.

We pray, of course: for friends and family who are suffering, fading, departed, and for college decisions, and for the requests they can't bring to leave their lips, which die unspoken in their mouths.

Then they write while I set up the projector amid furious speculation (Is it a movie?  Will we watch it for the whole class?  I hope it's funny.  I hope it snows tonight!)  And I end it by saying that yes, we're going to spend the next two classes watching and discussing one of my favorite movies about writing, creating and justice.  It's sweet, sad and funny.  Oh, and by the way, I made popcorn.

It is this last statement that causes them to erupt into cheers as I open the bag and pass out cups.  But I like to pretend it's partly for the other stuff, too.