Did I Miss Anything?
by Tom Wayman
From: The Astonishing Weight of the Dead. Vancouver: Polestar, 1994.
Question frequently asked by
students after missing a class
Nothing. When we realized you weren’t here
we sat with our hands folded on our desks
in silence, for the full two hours
Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 per cent of the grade for this term
and assigned some reading due today
on which I’m about to hand out a quiz
worth 50 per cent
Nothing. None of the content of this course
has value or meaning
Take as many days off as you like:
any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
and are without purpose
Everything. A few minutes after we began last time
a shaft of light descended and an angel
or other heavenly being appeared
and revealed to us what each woman or man must do
to attain divine wisdom in this life and
This is the last time the class will meet
before we disperse to bring this good news to all people
Nothing. When you are not present
how could something significant occur?
Everything. Contained in this classroom
is a microcosm of human existence
assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been
but it was one place
And you weren’t here
See also: “Did I Miss Anything?” FAQs, where you learn stuff like this:
Why do you think the poem has been so widely reprinted?
Because of the anger and hate in the poem’s sarcasm, the poem–to my surprise–has become a favorite with teachers at all levels, and is the most widely reproduced of everything I’ve written and published during the past 35 years. The poem has been in countless teachers’ newsletters, and on innumerable course outlines, and posted on office doors, office walls, and teachers’ staffrooms. One college teacher friend of mine who used it on a course outline had a student come up to the front after the class in which the outline was handed out. The student complained that the poem couldn’t have been written by anybody called “Tom Wayman”, because his math teacher in high school had handed out the poem, and the teacher said the poem was written by Anonymous. One bootleg version of the poem circulates on the Internet formatted as centered (like a wedding invitation) and another version has the poem written out as a block of prose (no line breaks or stanza breaks).
(Thanks to the awesome Susan Franck for the pointer.)