Three Poems

Poetry Class

[audio link]

Another anonymous student
faced forward, sat stoically,
stared sleepily, fifty-five minutes,
three mornings per week.
A Native American,
never noticed, until not there.

The khaki- clad professor of
environmental science
explained you died
in a car wreck, the night before.
He offered no moment of silence,
just science.

I looked out the window
to ponder and day dream
an imagined life.
A mourning dove landed
on the thick cement window sill,
picked loudly at the glass divide
beside your empty chair.
I marveled and goose-bumped,
looked around to meet
a knowing glance or two,
but found none.
The beige vertical blinds
snapped shut by the professor
swung back and forth
exposing rapid snapshots,
final, feathered glimpses.

If this were my
poetry class,
we all would have
known it was you.
We would have
invited you in.


The Beablossom Inn Lost River, Wisconsin ***** (1 of 1 review)

[audio link]

I’m not from here, of course, but a lucky break with an overheated radiator led me to this delightful 5 star resort! The Beablossom Inn’s original amenities- chartreuse shag carpeting, and ecru hobnail bedspreads (with popcorn accents) are surprisingly clean! All six rooms have color TV’s, trusty plumbing, and Perfect Sleeper beds. Jade shellback chairs, and a cushioned glider line the tourist court, overlooking the coneflower garden. Purple poppy mallow frames the stucco entrance. Yes, gas and groceries are 30 miles away, but gracious owners Bea and Walter are famous for their peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches. Enjoy one in the lobby, under vintage peacock drapes from the Ritz-Carlton, and Bea’s spoon collection, encased in glass. Lost River was founded by Walter’s great- grandfather, and is crime free (except for Otto and Selma’s son, Odis T.). Located 20 miles off I-70, next to the Free Methodist Church (the odist may be missing again). Look for the flashing orange neon arrow. Drug addicts not welcome.


What I Learned in Fifth Grade

[audio link]

I befriended Katherine the summer
before my new school began.
Her family readily absorbed me,
like another helping of whipped potatoes
and steaming beef-tips, accepted with a nod
around their wood- chipped farm table,
below the sticky curl of fly tape.

Sister Mona encouraged shy
but delighted oration with
Our new student has poetic potential.
Finished, l glanced up and saw
middle fingers extended upward
on outstretched arms,
when she wasn’t looking.
The sea of green plaid shifted
and swirled into the walls,
pulled desks, chairs, ceiling, my air
into the crescendo of a silent tsunami,
lifted my feet, pushed me down,
rendered me invisible.

Maggie was her name.
Four or more followed her
every command.
Now, I saw Katherine was invisible too.
Yet somehow they noticed
her jet black hair stand out
against her pallid skin,
startled blue- topaz eyes,
wobbly, fawn-like legs.
Maggie and the four or more
pushed her face up against
cold black and white tiles,
and defiant of the sun-filled
bathroom windows,
smeared Chap stick in her hair.
In the dimly lit halls
Katherine walked stiffly,
whimpered softly,
as they poked pins
into her arms, her back, her butt.
They stood knock-kneed in a line
as she came out for recess,
wide –eyed and slow,
like cattle on the ramp
of a slaughterhouse.
They whispered, from desks behind,
things that made big tears jump
from her bowed, motionless head
onto the smeared glass of her wire rims,
collect, and rush down
the flush of her salt-dried cheeks.

Father Mike, the sisters, and lay teachers
were invisible too.
Maggie and the four or more
flicked paint at the back
of Sister Mona’s habit,
staged sit- ins in the foyer, after recess.
One day the gate was open to Maggie’s
neighborhood, and my parents drove in.
I heard them say
Look, a groundskeeper!
You know, it wouldn’t be such a
good church and school without
their generous contributions.

—Nancy Austin, Hazelhurst, WI