Sunday, February 6, 2011

Protracted

Artificial lighting
underground is not the most flattering
lighting. Our faces look hollow and hairless
in the window a sleeping dark-ribbed tunnel seems to be
swallowing. I have just finished
asking you to stop
using certain upbeat words that drum
too loud on my head; I have already
started to regret it.
This line of chairs is no line but a segment.
Our spines are pencils on the edge
of heaven’s protractor; our heads
explore the angles of our respective
halves. I opened my desk one morning
and someone had broken its plastic smile
in two. The damage, so cleanly done,
must have been Mrs. Ammit,
pierce-eyed and strong-handed—
though a temperate teacher, and kind.
I held on to that suspicion. Not knowing
seemed worse than knowing amiss.
For days her face
shone hollow and hairless under the school’s broad
strip lights, until the girl
on my right and the boy on my left
sat down and found their compasses
broken, arms spread too far and snapped.
I looked at my hands through blank
white forgetting and turned myself in
to the pierce-eyed one,
because not knowing seemed worse
than knowing amiss. And her gentleness
beat too, too loud against a hollow
and unsuspecting head.