“Defiantly” by John L. Stanizzi

John L. Stanizzi


It begins with a mistake
while they are rushing through
what they call “busy work,”
some assignment you
find a drag as well,
having concocted it
so that you can tell
parents you wouldn’t permit
a lack of rigor to seep
into the classes you teach.

A moment before they sleep,
stupefied kids reach
for the mouse and click
the spell check as the last
charade in the high school schtick.
And the word that will never pass
is their take on definitely,
which they can never spell.
Spell check suggests defiantly,
but you can always tell
that what they really meant
was unambiguous,
something adamant,
but in their thoughtless rush
they push the enter key
and that’s the end of that.

Yet it doesn’t bother you
when they turn out the light
having finished the task,
held their end of the deal.
And tomorrow when you ask
for the work, they’ll feel
around inside their packs,
and emerge with a wrinkly mess
which you will gladly take
in spite of its meaninglessness.
You may give them a cursory read,
and then again maybe not;
written in a teenage trance,
it’s better that it’s all forgot.

No. You’re being defiant, you
and the kids in this room.
They know the drill too;
this will not matter soon.
You believe this definitely.
You’d rather see them play
the game defiantly
than let them walk away
absolutely sure
that as soon as they graduate
it’s off to the allure
of the future and a date
with everything they’ve ever planned.

Even the dutiful,
who seem so sapped of life,
confused and beautiful,
and concerned only with
what their parents will say,
their position in the class,
the almighty GPA,
and the terror of being last,
while working obediently,
can’t even get it right;
they click on defiantly,
and turn out the bedroom light.

Just once you’d love to see
them flip you off and smile;
that would definitely be
an act defiantly wild,
an act to be remembered,
no matter how it’s spelled.

from Rattle #34, Winter 2010


John L. Stanizzi: “I defiantly owe this poem to the spell checker and to my high school students.” (website)

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