“Road Kill On the Path to Salvation” by Kathleen Balma

Kathleen Balma


I teach Spanish now, and at school that translates:
someone who is good at this one language,
as if I live in a piece of luggage packed
with workaday words and plain phrases;
as if there’s a black cloud of vowels and R trills
buzzing around me like malaria mosquitoes,
and no one can see past the swarm.
Sometimes I talk about a good book
I’m reading. If it’s a novel, my reward
is a smile from the gal with a teaching award
and a look that says, “Good Señora,
keep trying.” If it’s poetry, smiles collapse
like small countries to a coup, new topics
queue up. Sometimes English teachers trade
unknowing looks when I name William
Carlos Williams, then clear off to budget
the annual author visit. When poetry class
comes around (also once a year), our Language Arts team
won’t let me near. They shut classrooms tight,
pull the dusty sheet off that famous Frost piece
as if revealing a prize trophy from glory days,
then beat kids with it so hard, most want to take
any road but the one that guy is on.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011


Kathleen Balma: “I was almost a painter instead of a poet, and I guess I still could be, but successful painters have to be willing to part with their finest creations. Poets never have to. We can give our work to the whole world and still keep it. I like that.”


Tonight on the Rattlecast: Kathleen Balma! Click here to watch live.

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