June 7, 2012

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

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