The United States of Montessori

for Oray

We sat Indian style, & sang our pledge
to Audubon, painted birds on every wall,
& heard mirage when our teachers said
mural. We stole soccer balls from French
exchange, spiked them on the walkway
& yelled touchdown. My friend, where
are you now? We tripped over tree roots
racing to the playground, walked the sea
of wood chips to the plastic ship’s eye
& wheel. We bartered Super Donuts for
extra cartons of chocolate milk, played
duck, duck, duck, duucck, duuuuccckkk
goose. We vamoosed around a sunken
circle of laughter. We were hedgehogs,
were road runners & sombrero mice.
We were bullets, the Flash & every Green
Lantern; the Black ones, the White ones,
the alien ones too.


Copyright © 2022 by Clemonce Heard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this around the violence we sometimes do in the name of art and science, i.e., John James Audubon killing birds for the sake of a more comprehensive catalog. Those thoughts are filtered through an homage to my first friend, Oray, who moved away, or was possibly deported, at the end of our second-grade year.
Clemonce Heard