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The teacher can’t hear the children
over all this monsoon racket,
all the zillion spoons whacking
the rusty roofs, all the wicked tin streams
flipping full-grown bucks off their hooves.
Everywhere there used to be a river,
there’s a bigger river now. Every hard face
on the block is sopping. Even the court
where girls from St. Ignominius ran
the roughneck boys off to play
their own three-on-three in plaid skirts
and church shoes for cash? –forget it.
The whole city’s a flash flood
with brawn enough to flush trucks
sideways down the capitol’s widest drives:
the crushed tonnage bobs around a bit
at the foot of some Spanish bastard’s statue,
before it stalls and pools on white church steps.
Brute pilgrims. Face it, paddling dogs won’t
make it, so children got no shot. But quick
thinking, the teacher lashes her students,
two at a time, with wire and stray twine.
She binds them across their breasts
to trees and metal posts lining the street’s
half flooded walk. No goddamned way,
she swears. She won’t let one little one
be washed out, even if their wriggling
makes their armpits bleed, even if
the kids must watch a good wood chair
catch in an eddy, then swirl off. You can’t
wish away the deluge. You can’t vanish
the bloated carnage-waters. But the tykes
in crew cuts and pigtails, still fastened
to shafts and trunks in ragged rows,
will survive. For now, their teacher
has made them safe by building an orchard
of them in the middle of a city road,
this small chorus of young hard fruit,
this little grove moaning.
From Brooklyn Antidiluvian: Poems, (Persea Books, 2016).
Used with permission.
Photo by Margarita Corporan.
Patrick Rosal is a poet, essayist, interdisciplinary artist, and musician/composer/arranger. He is the author of four books of poetry, most recently, Brooklyn Antediluvian, which won the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets and was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Award. His writing has appeared in Best American Poetry, The New York Times, American Poetry Review, and many other journals and anthologies. He has been a featured performer across four continents and at hundreds of venues and festivals throughout the United States. A recipient of residencies from Civitella Ranieri and the Lannan Foundation, he has been awarded fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fulbright Core Researcher Program. He currently teaches at Princeton University as Visiting Associate Professor and is a full-time faculty member of the MFA program at Rutgers University-Camden.
To read more poems of provocation and witness, please visit SplitThisRock.org.