Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Recalling Fourth Grade

Children Picking Tulips In Holland
By an anonymous English Artist
. . . but when mrs matheson
would read to us
about holland
i'd think about holland and
be real happy
and fourth grade sure went fast

~ Kevin Bales ~

What You Missed That Day You
Were Absent from Fourth Grade

Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen
to the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,

how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took
questions on how not to feel lost in the dark

After lunch she distributed worksheets
that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s

voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep
without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—

something important—and how to believe
the house you wake in is your home. This prompted

Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing
how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,

and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts
are all you hear; also, that you have enough.

The English lesson was that I am
is a complete sentence.

And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation
look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,

and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking
for whatever it was you lost, and one person

add up to something.

~ by Brad Aaron Modlin
~ in his book Everyone at This Party Has Two Names


Mike Carrell Always Wore

his pants almost to his neck
and one time virgil phillips sucked
all the ink out of a pen
into his mouth

mrs beavers wouldn't let me
carve in wax in art
cause i told her i could do it real good
i was fibbing at the time
but she said "if you already know how,
we'll let you work in clay"
boy did i ever hate clay

and phil mcdaniels fell down at recess
and cut his bottom
but he was embarrassed to have mrs rogers
look at it or fix it but he was really bleeding
so she let a 6th grader fix it
he was red all day and I don't mean his bottom either

miss crawford told us every day how
smart she was and
how her oboe would fit in her underarm
but we all liked singing better

mrs harod who really road a wagon in the land run
would drink cough syrup right out of the bottle
and by last period
she would sure act silly
once she asked us to learn limericks
for the next day
and ole virgil phillips
learned the dirtiest one
i'd every heard and
mrs harod got choked and nearly
passed on right then

mean old miss habor hit bucky one time
so hard he fell outa his chair
and it was scotty who was talking

mike morris told dirty jokes at recess
ole mike was really popular
i'd laugh and laugh
but i didn't really understand
i wanted to ask somebody but i was afraid

one time there was this word on the sidewalk
and bucky pretended he didn't know it
so i sounded it out
and it was nasty
and everybody laughed

but when mrs matheson
would read to us
about holland
i'd think about holland and
be real happy
and fourth grade sure went fast

~ by Kevin Bales (b. 1952)
~ in the collection Mad, Sad & Glad
~ edited by Stephen Dunning
The Legend of the Boy and the Dike

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