This happened back when I taught middle-school. The student in questions was a nice girl who was completely serious. There was no reason for her to know who Flannery was (unlike in the poem, I explained to the student who she was and assured her that she was not my wife). The John Lennon question threw me a bit more because why on Earth would I have a poster of myself in my classroom? Or a poster of myself anywhere?
My Student Asks If Flannery O’Connor Is My Wife
I have three postcards of her—two photographs,
one painting—and my student ambles over to my desk
and asks in all sincerity, “It that your wife?”
I study Flannery for a bit, in the first postcard, where
she stares into the camera with a half-smile, her blue
eyes intelligent and humorous behind her glasses,
the curl of her hair just visible on the side of her head.
The image is just a touch out of focus, lending Flannery
a ghostly air, as if she just floated in some time after
her death and someone snapped one last photo.
I glance at the three framed pictures of my desk
that show me, my wife, and my two children—color
pictures, obviously recently taken, our faces full of life,
in full focus, a split-second of captured happiness.
“Yes, Flannery is my wife,” I say. “She’s a bit older,
but we’re quite happy. She stays in Andalusia most
of the year, and I see her when I can. We read each
other stories and drink tea and watch the peacocks.”
My student nods, completely satisfied, and turns
to the poster of John Lennon on the wall. “And that’s you?”