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In Which I Take Plan B to Church

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MY SUBJECT today
will not make a good poem.
It barely makes a good story,

but I can’t shake the image
of the book stuck in the car door pocket,
the one I bring with me just in case

I need to slip out,
my Plan B.
I used to be more easygoing, but

I haven’t the wiggle room I once had
to sit politely, absorb, smile benignly
and run out the clock, nobody knowing

the pain I’m in
when the sub comes
and every road to good discussion leads him to

what’s wrong with this country
and a railing against something,
not after I’ve so carefully placed

boundaries around what I take in,
even unfollowing and hiding, temporarily anyway,
a few friends I love dearly.

Just as a personal mental health initiative, mind you.
And now, in what should be the safest place,
I find myself

sitting in the 3rd row of class, feeling bombarded,
hoping we’ll get back into Hebrews 13,
pining for last week’s insightful and profitable exchange,

my bag of tricks for turning a discussion, empty,
craving escape, weighing options,
dreaming of the book in the door pocket,

wanting to slip out,
but not wanting to abandon my classmates and
praying for relief.

A lot of “-ing” words there.
Present. Continuous.
Tense.

And a voice in my head,
saying,
“Stop being so sensitive.”

* * *

IF THE SUB had not approached after class,
to say he appreciated my contributions the last hour,
if he’d not come between me and the door,

it might not have come over me,
it might not have happened,
what happened next, my saying

how I’ve needed to place limits
and how I hope he’ll excuse me,
if ever the conversation turns political

and I need to slip out,
I hope he’ll understand
and not take it personally.

Honestly, in all my weighing and strategizing,
it never occurred to me before
to just tell him the plain truth.

* * *

There is interest, there is involvement and then there is a point where every conversation ends up in a hammering home of one’s point of view. That, my friends, is idolatry.

Today’s prompt in the Summer 2016 Challenge was not a line so much as the image and the feeling I should not have to bring an escape plan with me to church.

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Kept Awake Nights

I am kept awake nights
by the sound of ancestors
turning in their graves,
those who came on boats,
immigrants in peculiar clothing
carrying nothing but satchels and dreams.
Just at the tone of public debate.

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ESL

I LEAVE at HOME
concerns about split infinitives,
dangling participles and
subject-verb disagreements

and the eye that spots
from across the room
and before anyone asks,
misplaced commas
and breaches of capitalization rules.

And Dickens. Yes. He stays back, too.
We will not have page-long paragraphs
comprised of a single sentence
with a dozen dependent clauses,
much as I may love them.
We will not be searching for antecedents.

No, this is seats-of-the-pants
language training,
where, when a refugee learns to say
“Bathroom, where?”
“In pain, me. Go see doctor.”
“How much?”
we hear success.
The finer points will be tended to down the road somewhere.

This is not work for elitists.
Sticklers for form need not apply.
Lovers of people, yes.


This poem stems from a prompt from TSPoetry. The challenge was to write a poem that catalogs a variety of words from a specific field.