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Singing Along With Miss Worrell
by David Alpaugh

I wasn't exactly sure what was being asked.

Did you ever see a lassie go this way and that?
(I hadn't… yet.)

Or simply: Did you ever see a lassie?

In either case–whether I'd seen such a creature
or not–I had to chant that Saint-Vitus-like refrain:
go this way and that way and this way and that way
(as if merely to mention a lassie dizzied the brain).

Miss Worrell's fifth-grade had 10 boys and 14 girls–
Felicia Pfister… Mary Pasquale… Evelyn Long…
It was impossible not to see them, even as I sang,
and I was certain they saw me as they sang along.

I stared at Attilio Chiappa… was he a laddie?
Then Carol-Ann Schreiach… was she a lass?
What was Loch Lomond? What was a brae?
Was my heart in my chest? or in the highlands?

Across the room sat Bonnie; the only Bonnie we had;
and the heroine of an even more troubling song–
I'd been to Atlantic City. The waves were 8 feet high.
How could Bonnie possibly lie "over the ocean"?

Perhaps there was another way to see a lassie?
Would the mist one day clear from my eyes?

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes…
"Girls on this side of the room; boys on the other."
Miss Worrell was bound for Scotland in her cutty-sark
and ready or not we were going along for the ride.

She liked to save her favorite air for last–
Bobbie Burns (in the expurgated version):

          If a body meet a body
          Coming through the rye,
          If a body kiss a body–
          Need a body cry?

I was mystified by all those bodies–but eager
to join them in the rye. (Like Matthew Arnold
I was tired of wandering between two worlds,
one dead, the other powerless to be born.)

Then Eddie Zakowski landed a spitball on my head,
and Marilyn Goldberg turned around and smiled–
as if to say: all that matters is the music


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