History Lesson, by Nancy Posey

Nancy Posey

Since the coach who taught history
tended to digress, we had to sort
our notes, weeding out the stats
of last night’s game, to make sense
of World War Two. The first war,
the one to end all wars, had taken
less than a week, since he was eager
to put on the uniform he’d bought
off Ebay and wore to reenactments
all summer and weekends when
the team drew a bye. We had lingered
through the Uncivil War, the one
he claimed our grandparents called
the War of Northern Aggression,
although we knew that few in these hills
had owned slaves, and few fought
willingly for those belonging to the man
in the big house, whose grown sons
stayed home. Coach read from his old
notes bearing the whiff of the purple
ink from the long retired mimeograph,
dictating dates, names, and places
drawing no links between cause and effect,
between one period and the next,
between then and now. No wonder
we learned so little of the standard
course of study; not until we left
school for lives of our own, not until
we read books that sent us searching
to sift fact from fiction, not until our
sons and daughters shipped out
to deserts far away, did we ask
ourselves why we didn’t see the need
not just to learn history, but to learn
from history.

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