After Hanif Abdurraqib & Frank O’Hara
It is the last class of the day and I am teaching a classroom of sixth graders about poetry and across town a man has walked into a Starbucks and blown himself up while some other men throw grenades in the street and shoot into the crowd of civilians and I am 27 years old which means I am the only person in this room who was alive when this happened in New York City and I was in eighth grade and sitting in my classroom for the first class of the day and I made a joke about how mad everyone was going to be at the pilot who messed up and later added, how stupid do you have to be for it to happen twice?
And the sixth graders are practicing listing sensory details and somebody calls out blue skies as a sight they love and nobody in this classroom knows what has happened yet and they do not know that the school is in lockdown which is a word we did not have when I was in sixth grade and the whole class is laughing because a boy has called out dog poop as a smell he does not like and what is a boy if not a glowing thing learning what he can get away with and I was once a girl in a classroom on the lucky side of town who did not know what had happened yet and electrical fire is a smell I did not know I did not like until my neighborhood smelled that way for weeks and blue skies is a sight I have never trusted again and poetry is what I reached for in the days when the ash would not stop falling and there is a sixth grade girl in this classroom whose father is in that Starbucks and she does not know what has happened yet and what is a girl if not a pulsing thing learning what the world will take from her and what if I am still a girl sitting in my classroom on the lucky side of town making a careless joke looking at the teacher for some kind of answer and what if I am also the teacher without any answers looking back at myself and what is an adult if not a terrified thing desperate to protect something you cannot save?
And how lucky do you have to be for it to miss you twice? And tomorrow a sixth grade girl will come to class while her father has the shrapnel pulled from his body and maybe she will reach for poetry and the sky outside the classroom is so terribly blue and the students are quiet and looking at me and waiting for a grown-up or a poem or an answer or a bell to ring and the bell rings and they float up from their seats like tiny ghosts and are gone