2: the poetry teacher

The poetry teacher told us
to make our poems modern
so to use words like radioactive
and sex (as every modern knew about this)
and chrome and catastrophe
and computer and rising water line

we asked him why chrome and not
steel and he told us that we should never
take things that didn’t belong to us
we should make new things
images no reader had ever seen before
like an elephant with three legs and a red hat
but that wasn’t really a red hat but a hamster
but that really wasn’t a hamster but a red hat
or a germ that ended up running things
or a war where everyone forgot their knives
and so instead tried to tear each other apart
with whatever they had in their pockets
which was just lint though someone
had remembered a deck of cards so he
proceeded to threaten the enemy with his queens
and jacks and maybe the sevens
everyone laughed at his sevens and his queens

yes, the poetry teacher said, make poems
no one’s ever read before or the creative spirit
will perish or that elephant with that hamster
(which is really a red hat) will fall into a hole
and drown, but then the poetry teacher
paused.  He looked at the lights.
He looked at the windows.  He looked at us.
He said, “Have I been asleep all this time?”
We said, “We swear it’s not a hamster.”

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