“The English Teacher Who Mistook a Clock for a Bomb” by Alejandro Escudé

Alejandro Escudé


Be sure it would happen in the middle of a lesson.
The kid’s backpack would beep and your head
would fill with the worst cases, because that’s what
education is, if you’re not careful, a collection
of worst cases, in your mind, your whirling mind
that does not sleep with sleep, a consciousness
like the Reagan-era, perpetually waiting to tuck itself
under a desk, blood splattering over the sleepy
early afternoon windows. You understand the parent
who comes to drop blame-bombs, the principal
who dismantles them, the moon-goth-rape-scab
that’s left by the one teen always waiting to pounce
on the simplest of statements, to make mincemeat
out of something like rhetorical questions should rarely
be used in essays. So when you’d hear the beep
you wouldn’t really panic as much as go to sleep,
as if the beeping of the homemade clock were
the scratch-language of the dead and disrespected.
Your colleague? The one that told the Muslim boy
not to show the clock to other teachers? He too,
plagued by political myth-trolls, hounded by
creditors, flicking off every work year like
a man flicking a lighter yet never quiet striking
the American flame. No bomb, that’s for sure,
only a name, a victimized name, and a policeman
prying too deeply for a motive—the empty chair
the boy left, the gadget and you, the teacher who
mistook a clock for a bomb. We’d place you in a tomb.

Poets Respond
September 20, 2015

[download audio]


Alejandro Escudé: “This is not the majority viewpoint on this story, and I feel bad for the student who was wrongly arrested, but I wanted people to understand what a harrowing job teaching high school English can be, and what it would be like to one day, in the midst of this tough job, which is so heavily criticized and demonized by American society, what it would truly feel like, what it would really be like, to suddenly, out of nowhere, hear an unimaginable, confounding beep.” (website)

Note: This poem has been published exclusively online as part of a project in which poets respond to current events. A poem written within the last week about an event that occurred within the last week will appear every Sunday at Rattle.com. Our only criterion for selection is the quality of the poem, not its editorial position; any opinions expressed are solely those of the poet and do not necessarily reflect those of Rattle’s editors. To read poems from past weeks, visit the Poets Respond page. Interact on our Facebook group. To have a poem considered for next week’s posting, submit it here before midnight Friday PST.

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