by R.M. Haines

In class, when I’m sick of my authority,
a picture of me shows in my head’s dark:
a patriarch whose wrong words ruin his kids.
A thought takes root. I imagine myself
before my room of bright, listening children:
I’m describing how the Earth is sick
and how our story on its surface is only
a bland, flickering violence. I’m saying
that no meaning can be true enough
to account for us and make us matter:
too many persons exist, too many words,
needs and desires. I tell how we break,
how a thought becomes a jail. I say,
“Now nothing but chance is sacred.”
I quit. When I choke back my laughter,
I can’t explain the sound it creates.
The kids don’t notice. In silence,
they admire windows, the trees beyond.
They await warm lunch and fingerpaints.
Each day, they find time to break free
from their written work’s endless page
to let their own world emerge and play:
its wilderness is threaded with jokes,
noise, small cruelties turned to glee.
When I can, I share it with them.
When I can't, I don't know what I am.
Thought thinks me. News comes. I age.
Reading my volume on the centuries,
I wait for a fire to break in my head
where what’s left of the joke might wake,
blackened and alive. It is not a lie.
It’s the thread I hold when, each day,
I welcome each small, perishable face
and disguise my terror with knowledge.