Jul/Aug 2018 Poetry

Two Poems

by Christine Potter

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream

Teaching A Writing Workshop At the School Where I Worked For Many Years

Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost
—Adam Zagajewski

Laminated directions sat on the teacher's desk next to her spare glasses,
a mug of cough drops, controls for the white board: If the violence comes to
your secured space, it's okay to try to escape. I tried to write with the kids

to poems I'd brought in: Bly, Akhmatova, Zagajewski. Tried to turn dust
motes into sequins in a slant of morning light, tried to find a small specific
worthy of praise. Colors, objects, articles of clothing: a girl with an oversized

green plaid shirt, a fuzzy-haired boy with the start of a beard. Lock the doors,
turn out the lights, take attendance, take instructions from law enforcement,
not announcements on the PA. We'd just started the drills the year I retired,

squatting in closets, cops in the loud hall shooting blanks to desensitize us
on a conference day when all the kids were gone. If the violence comes, try to
praise something. One girl called on Bly's hard-of-hearing angels, called on

Jesus and Allah. Praise the warm morning, the radiators and the window
air conditioner running at the same time, the haze on the distant hills, empty
trees struck green and pink at their tips. Praise two black-haired nerdy girls

making jokes about Shakespeare, the kids I used to teach who are teachers
themselves, the poetry slam in the library with the other local high school.
Praise the tar-melting sun in the parking lot, the violence that does not come.


To my Rock and Roll Hero of Thirty-five Years, Playing my Home Turf

Of course it was an excellent show, but I kept thinking
of houses on the main drag where my friends don't live
anymore, how their front porches all got blocked in with

pastel-colored vinyl siding. In April, they're still strung
with Christmas lights. You played for an hour and a half,
solo, fierce as ever. I sat in the second row and took it in

like breath, my husband of twenty-five years beside me:
up way too late, all of us. Your big break-up CD came out
twenty-seven years ago, the spring I got divorced. I chose

your heartbreak over my own, drove it through warm rain,
AC blasting, trying to cop your attitude, noting how the
windshield wipers synched up, too. Even the mild, kind

MC called you The Man when he introduced you, said
he couldn't believe he'd actually coaxed you all the way
out to the 'burbs. But rock and roll was the spine of us all,

mild or fierce, like not giving up or faking it, even when
you do a show unplugged. Your girlfriend was luminous,
the age of my goddaughter. She sang harmonies with you,

holding her stomach as if she were trying not to fly away.
You kept your spine. Someone dropped something, or fell,
loudly, during the first song. A hazard of your shows, you

said: most of us old enough to just thump over. How odd
and admirable, building little fires for one another at night:
no matter how late, no matter what kind of morning comes


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