I ask them to write an essay
on Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”
and compare it to real life’s
mob mentality, human cruelty.
I say exercise close reading
and let your argument lead
the way; textual evidence
Explore, excavate, then explicate.
Find your own voice.
I want them to enjoy freedom
of speech (in this course at least).
But all they want
is a formula that guarantees good grades,
a step-by-step instruction manual
to free them from thinking. They
begin counting the words
of an outstanding essay,
demanding me to stone him
who wrote it, as he failed to celebrate
the college’s sacred ritual
of word limits.