Elan Mudrow’s wonderful new poem, Array, is especially meaningful to me today, as my son and I are visiting my college alma mater. It’s one of several schools he’s considering for his undergraduate education, and touring the campus this morning was a somewhat awkward experience for me.
Three decades from graduation, score years after leaving the town, ten since my last visit — much has changed, mostly for the better (it was heartening to hear that campus meal plans were far more diverse than they were back in my day, and that the journalism school had finally accepted the legitimacy of media outside of print). But for every new building our guide walked past backwards, there was another I recognized from my time; the face of the campus had developed new contours, yet it was unmistakably still the face of that powerful collective intellect which had helped me discover who I was.
Today, though, was about someone who was seeing this land for the first time. Someone who needed to ask his own questions, to derive his own interpretation of the school. I answered his questions as best I could (yes y0u can change your major), but found myself deliberately holding back information about my undergraduate days. Later, on reading Elan’s poem, I understood better why I held back:
“When I see your face, I recognize it is you, but you have changed. I need to hear your voice.”
Today, I needed to hear the school’s voice speak to my son. So I walked on the outside edge of our tour group, and listened.