Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Say the title of the poem again,

this time a little slower, I say.
The stage is like a cage
with a spotlight on the body
of each penned ninth grader.

Say terror again.

We are here to recite poems.

Don’t forget to read
the first 45 pages
of Fahrenheit 451
by Thanksgiving break.

Stay up there, I say
to the football player
pinned like a butterfly.

What is the world like?

Impassifly beautiful, he says,
shifting his feet.

What kind of beautiful is the world?
I demand.

Impossibly. Impossibly beautiful.

To the girl who forgets the line
“cabinets, drawers, and cupboards”
I say, Think of it alphabetically,
only at the last word, start again at c.

What kind of advice is that?
I don’t know anything.

I am too old
to not know anything.

Their minds are flames
I am here to stoke.

What does it mean to you —
The world is coming together
or apart?

What does it mean to be here
in this school theatre, alone
and together right now
facing the impossible
task of being fourteen?

Maurizio keeps dropping
the last word of the title:
If We Must Die.

I push him to say it
over and over until
he shouts it
with a power
that extinguishes.

Good. Good job.

I’ll always hear
these poems
in their voices.

I won’t know
if they’ve married a monster
or given up a firstborn son,
led some firetale life.

This is no gift right now,
to memorize a poem.
They want practical
and I ask them questions.
It singes all corners
on their pages titled care.

Maybe in the future
one will notice a child with eyes
the color in the center of a peacock feather
and the line of that poem from ninth grade
will drift in from the turquoise map
of their brain: impossibly beautiful.

Or like sorcerer fish their own poems
will float to the surface of their days:
It’s a pleasure to burn
it’s a pleasure to burn
in this impossible, firetale world.

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