By Ben |

In 1993 I was a junior in high school, studying The Canterbury Tales. We were given an assignment to write a Chaucerian sonnet from the point of view of an elevator operator whose elevator gets stuck between floors while a group of high school students is on a field trip. I chose to write about a debate student, and I had a specific senior in mind. I chose to spell debater with an -or because I felt that made it seem more a part of his identity.

Along one wall, a proud Debator sat 
With all his gear. His head, for lack of hat, 
Appeared the only part of him to bear 
The fashions of modernity. His hair 
Was slicked to back with gel or mousse he wore 
To match the style of sixty years before. 
His red suspenders likewise made him look 
A nineteen-thirties businessman or crook. 
His hands had tugged his tie loose in their quest 
To pass the time while forcibly my guest. 
He fidgeted as if in quite a hurry 
To get somewhere and seemed inclined to worry 
About two heavy boxes made of plastic 
Bound to a little dolly with elastic. 
These boxes bore a portion of his fate 
In cross-examination-style debate. 
He really only used a small percentage 
Of paper in the box. The rest was vintage 
Material from when he'd thought the sound 
Of truth would, if he spoke it, win a round. 
This text that had been written to enlighten 
Today served only visually to frighten 
Opponents and the uninitiated 
Who only once or twice had e'er debated. 
Why truth, when simpler 'tis to form illusion? 
His dress showed this, for, to avoid confusion, 
He wore his daunting costume all the time. 
He rattled through a speech in pantomime 
While waiting. Yea, the contents of his mind 
Made way for memorizing of this kind. 
He'd found it necessary to relax 
His grip on other subjects that could tax 
His time and effort, which were focused towards 
The acquisition of debate awards. 
He'd faith that such a narrow spread of knowledge 
Could somehow gain admission to a college 
Whose reputation and prestige attract 
Companions in agreement on this fact: 
Society is based on lies and hate 
And run by cynics who enjoy debate.