Grand Bois

South Lafourche High School, 1983

In twelve minutes we could drive the shortcut—
Bayou Lafourche toward Grand Caillou—
My high school friends in an econo Ford.

We saved—more than time, holding our eyes
On the trailing center line—ourselves
From the futures chasing us down. Once
We blew a curve and dived into the marsh.
I saw then what I see now: the young dead
Along the tidewash—miles short of their true ends—

Straying from us, their backs turned,
Their shoulders verging into the haze.
Above the treeline their names—some were friends,

Some were bodies in the halls. Rows of faces,
Rows of cane, the narrow curves and arched moss—
Time we saved, forgot, then lost.


Martha Serpas
from her book Cote Blanche
Used by permission of the poet.


For a Science Class

Lesson Plan for Martha Serpas’s “Grand Bois”
by Laurie A. Williams

This poem is a great way to begin a discussion about time.

Read the poem aloud in class or have a student or group of students read it aloud.

Ask how this poem relates to physics? If the students do not see the connection, lead them to these lines:

line 4: “We saved—more than time . . . “
lines 5 & 6: “ourselves/ From the futures chasing us down.”
line 15: “Time we saved, forgot, then lost.”

How do we understand the phrase “save time”?

What is attractive about being able to store time or save it up?

What about time travel?

Isaac Newton stated, ”time flows equably without reference to anything external.” Is this our current understanding of time?

Einstein observed that time is relative.

Have students look at the clock in the classroom (or any clock that has a second hand) and then look at wristwatches with second hands. Are all of the second hands moving at exactly the same time?

What does this say about time?

How does our memory and our emotional self view time differently than “actual” time?

What does Brian Greene say about the possibility of time travel?

For a writing, have students return to a memory and compare and contrast their different understanding of that moment including what they actually remember at that time and what they know now looking back.

Have students research Newton, Einstein and Brian Greene’s thoughts on time and explain how time functions, and how our understanding of time has changed since Newton.

Have students research different theories of time travel and explain what is plausible and what is not.

Any of these writings could be in the form of a poem, a story, or an essay.

For an English Class

Lesson Plan for Martha Serpas’s “Grand Bois”
by Laurie A. Williams

Pass out a copy of the poem to students.

Have students number the lines on the left-hand side.

Note how many lines are in the poem.

What is noticeable about the structure? Where to the strophe/stanza breaks occur? How many strophes/stanzas does the poem contain?

If students don’t know the terms *tercet and *sestet, explain it to them.

Just looking at the poem, where is the eye drawn?

Read the poem aloud in class.

Then read the poem stanza by stanza, switching readers at each stanza break.

Then read the poem line by line, switching readers at each line.

Reading poems aloud this way trains the brain to slow down and look for clues. We are so used to quickly skimming the vast amount of text we look at each day, that when we come to a poem, we often forget to read slowly. We are so used to quickly skimming the vast amount of text we look at each day, that when we come to a poem, we often forget to read slowly. As teachers, we need to pass on to our students the concept of re-reading. It is an especially helpful tool for discerning subtle details in language.

Have students look at where the sentences begin and end.

Ask how the dashes are functioning. Is it the end of a thought or just a separation of a larger thought?

How are place and time treated in the poem?

More advanced classes can look at the rhythm and syllabication of the poem. What is noticeable about those features?

For a writing assignment, have students write a poem based on a remembered place and time. They could use Martha Serpas’s poem as a model.

*tercet—three line stanza
*sestet—six line stanza

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