Poetry: Alinda Wasner
Phillip, asleep at the back of the class
The tight brown bud of his face so recently opened into manhood,
His cheek pressed against Hayden’s Night-Blooming Cereus,
His eyes, were they to fly open,in direct line with Joubert’s Black Iris–
Did the textbook publishers Have this in mind?
This afternoon, like so many others, we speak in whispers
A sort of tribute to all the boy-men who flip burgers all night
To keep their babies from Social Services, who go home at dawn to walk them
so the grannies can sleep–until someone can figure out a way
To convince the girlfriends that babies need their mamas, too.
Oh, so much is unlikely:
That the principal, when he walks through the door unannounced
Will think I am doing my job here at the back of the room
My hand on Philllip’s shoulder as if the lines we are reading
Will bring him to life,
As if the techniques recommended in teacher colleges
By white professors who never set foot in the likes of my classroom
Could quiet the beast of gangs that roams the school grounds,
Rules the hallways–
Could temper all that is lost, out of control
But Hayden would know.
After all, he lived just down the street.
I want to think he would want the babies here, too
Being read to in the crooks of our arms,
passed from row to row,
Learning to read our eyes and our lips
The kiss of hope imprinted on their hearts as well as their little cheeks.
Oh, the ringing of words like the ringing of bells–
Something to send home with them, something
to bring them back.
Rejoice for the thick turn of wrist for nut brown skin and the black coils matted under the wristband
Rejoice for the smoothness of the cheek pressing into the pillow for the Picasso-esque
Close-up of the lover with three eyes
For the hand that knows just where to tempt For fingers flying over the keyboard of the body
Rejoice for the willows slow-dancing slow, slow, slow-dancing slower in the moonlight
For the leg pressed into leg and the high-pitched whine of blue notes sliding out of an 18-wheeler
down-shifting out on the highway like a harmonium
For the familiar mouth and whispers having finally replaced the god-endless pontification
Rejoice for the chickadees chikkerring low in the bushes for the dead mosquito no longer zizzing
Rejoice for shadows half painted in moonlight for the night grass gossiping to the neighbors
For the moon sneaking in, under, around, and through the branches
For the moss bed hidden down by the water
Rejoice for the willows fingering the edge of the shoreline for the basso profundo of a slow moving freighter
and for sweat and juices pooling in all the right crevices
Rejoice for the moon and the planets and the morning stars sneaking into the bed with us
For nights that end too quickly for a hot wind and sheets kicked into a tangle
For the cool side of the pillow and the blue jay shrieking Me, me, me ME
loud enough to obscure the cry of arching bodies from the neighbors
Rejoice for the sound of the oud and the cimbalom and the click of a CD still skipping
Rejoice for the DNA of thick ankles for eyes dark and quick as a sparrow’s
Rejoice for the new sun in the cattails For poppies pole-dancing in their upside-down red skirts
For irises with their beards jutting
And rejoice the whisper of breeze cozying up again to the willows begging for the slow dance to start over.
Love, was it under the lemon tree
the first time our eyes met
the wind quivering along the spines of the tall grass?
Or, was it by the catalpa
the first time our palms touched
the red sun on the wild poppies?
Love, was it under the street lamp
the first time your lips salted mine
the moon over your shoulder an amber amulet?
Or, was it in the open field
the first time we lay together
the cicadas restless, then silent, in the branches?
Love, was it in the busy intersection
the first time you held me to your heart
a hot wind slithering down the skyscrapers?
Or was it that same intersection
the first time you let go of me
sirens screaming in all directions?
Love, was it by the water
the first time your words stung me,
the sand and clouds a cauldron of chaos?
Or, Love, was it deep in the forest
the last time you turned your back on me
the wind pulling the curtain of night across the horizon?