Poem for Back to School

From Pyre to Ash: A Teacher’s Duty

I’m sorry but I can’t write a poem
about going back to school.
My pandemic mind is a closet
with twenty years of chaos.
Unkempt as it is, everything will fall.

My job is to hoard
piles of artifacts – the art of facts:
the tests, markers and projector slides.
Quantum particles are stuff
of long-term memory
both in matter and its movement.

Did you know
scantron dots are the marks
of conformity?
And that trust is a journal’s cursive flow
among neat lines?
These are place-cards of the living
put away long ago
while I stood, out front, pointing.

My work must be reconciliation.
This is a landfill with all contradictions;
dismantle the stage, but leave the masks.
I’ve made a burn pile for the broken:
ash takes up less space, as you know.

The remains are to blow across the lawn
as just another mess.
Any danger will come from embers
as they reignite in the drought
we’ve known for too long now.
The breeze will take the fire to fields
as our propositions combust.
And this whole town will burn.

Gone are the days of my crouching
in stalled-up washrooms
to throw up lunch between classes.
I have learned to smile
through the worst.
I have learned to wear lipstick
for students who believe
that somebody must know
what they are talking about.

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