Andrea Sharp

The School

In pho­tog­ra­phy class,
we were uncon­scious­ly float­ing around the small room
like a sin­gle-mind­ed unit,
arrang­ing our­selves into an even­ly spaced pat­tern,
fac­ing a sin­gle direc­tion,
stand­ing on our tip­toes to get a bet­ter look at the orange-sized orb,
and say­ing
“This is a fish-eye lens. You can let it hang down, like this—”
we dropped it like a yoyo,
“or you can point it up, like this, or out, this way.“
We jabbed the lens into the mid­dle of the clus­ter of us and
blinked at the flash and
heard the shut­ter click, and
we were pro­cess­ing the film from the cam­era that
cap­tures light via the sphere-shaped lens. We were
peer­ing down at the print,
anx­ious to see the image that emerged, sub­merged
in a watery mix of chem­i­cals. And,
stand­ing there with rust-col­ored skin under the rust-col­ored light:
we were see­ing every­thing as one at once.
We were,
at the moment the shut­ter opened, writ­ing sen­tences for an essay,
in room C-9, teach­ing English,
where we hoped to fin­ish our assign­ment in class so we wouldn’t have home­work, when
G.B. Shaw revealed some of the absur­di­ty
of English spelling by apply­ing its con­ven­tions in such a way that
could be spelled “ghoti.” And
speak­ing of fish,
just when we snapped the shut­ter,
we were sit­ting in our biol­o­gy class reflect­ing how,
via the com­plex net of the earth’s water­ways,
a fish
might in one life­time cir­cum­nav­i­gate the globe.
It might come to life in the North Sea,
trav­el down the Atlantic to pass under
Argentina and across the Bellingshausen Sea,
go north through the Pacific Ocean for a vis­it to the Bering Straits, and
even­tu­al­ly die in the waters south of China or even in the Indian Ocean.
It might, on its way,
swim into the mouths of glis­ten­ing rivers.
At which sec­ond, through the pho­to­prod­uct we’re call­ing a fish’s eye,
we saw we were seat­ed beside the Jordan,
that we were eager teach­ers learn­ing “Baptism is a sym­bol­ic rit­u­al.
The bap­tized are fish,
the bap­tist is a fish­er—
—an ordained priest.
His helpers are fish­er­men.”
And across the
court we were spin­ning a com­pass for
and dis­cov­ered what Euclid called
the vesi­ca pis­cis, and
start­ed silent­ly sig­nal­ing assent
with the loop of a thumb and fore­fin­ger.
At that moment,
as per school sched­ule,
this les­son coin­ci­den­tal­ly coin­cid­ed
with Western Civ where we were
“Fisher” Kings—Priest Kings—and
we were knights embark­ing on long bloody jour­neys between Europe and Jerusalem,
nev­er know­ing, nev­er for­get­ting
the Fisher King her­itage of the Holy Grail. And
mean­while, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly,
we were stu­dents of Eastern Philosophy,
drop­ping smooth peb­bles one at a time onto two sides of a scale
as we asked our pupils to pon­der this:
“A bird doesn’t know air, a fish doesn’t know water, and you don’t know your­self.” And
just then,
as the shut­ter snapped,
we were in Archaeology and
the con­ti­nents split apart and
what had been dry land was flood­ed with new net­works
of oceans and seas and rivers and water­ways.
At that moment, as amoe­bae and trilo­bites and tad­poles and
so many wig­gling slip­pery lives,
we were teach­ing our­selves,
for a rea­son we would nev­er know,
to labor out of a watery mix of chem­i­cals
so we might cast out the his­to­ry of a species that,
against the forces of entropy and grav­i­ty,
relent­less­ly and for­ev­er climbs upward.
Shares under­stand­ing of sym­bol and metaphor and so
com­mu­ni­cates, speaks, and writes.
Invents reli­gion. Circumnavigates the globe.
Tries to learn and under­stand; pre­tends to teach.
Peers through the fic­tion of a
fish-eye sphere
to imag­ine cap­tur­ing the flash of an idea that time is an illu­sion and all is one.


Serious doubter of the the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion, Andrea Sharp is puz­zled by, and can’t explain the ori­gin of, her poem, “The School.” And even though she spent a lot (prob­a­bly too much) of time in school after phys­i­cal­ly out-grow­ing child­hood, she sur­vived it all with a few fresh ideas, sto­ries, rhyming bal­lads, late-night-like let­ters, and wished-for bios like this one. For exam­ple, Andrea is the creator/illustrator of “Catland,” “Somewhere Far,” “The Gossip On Tallula Tropp,” a col­lec­tion of songs, and oth­er writ­ten adven­tures. Some of them can be down­loaded or pur­chased for pen­nies at