“Our reading for the day is a pre-recorded one, so you can watch it whenever you like. It features the poet Ocean Vuong, reading at the Fashion Institute of Technology in 2017.
Poetry often takes us to strange places – to feelings and actions that are hard to express except through the medium of a poem. To the “liminal,” in other words – a place or sensation that exists at or on both sides of a boundary or threshold, neither one thing or the other, but something betwixt and between.
In honor of the always-becoming nature of poetry, I challenge you today to select a photograph from the perpetually disconcerting @SpaceLiminalBot, and write a poem inspired by one of these odd, in-transition spaces. Will you pick the empty mall food court? The vending machine near the back entrance to the high school gym? The swimming pool at what seems to be M.C. Escher’s alpine retreat? No matter what neglected or eerie space you choose, I hope its oddness tugs at the place in your mind and heart where poems are made.”
My poem ‘ First Time in Eighteen Years,’ is based on the picture of a vending machine in a school.
Meandering tongues of corridors lie vacant
Silence echoes loud
Blank walls hang their heads low, despondent
Despair floats like a grey cloud.
Melancholy eyes of classrooms return a death-like stare
Bright posters on the walls and etchings on desks;
Only reminder of the not-so-distant past
The quiet melody is hard to bear.
A moldy stillness has replaced the earlier burlesques
It’s been a year and no one knows how long this will last
The vending machine stands in the corridor unfed;
the food stale in his gut
He hasn’t got the old stuff out
‘Coz he hasn’t been receiving his med*
He’s elated; it doesn’t matter if he’s in a state of rut
For there’s something he remembers, if only he could shout-
‘The school’s as quiet as a morgue! No kidding!
That’s what they all talk about- the blackboard, the walls, the dusters and the doors.
The playground’s deserted, the locker rooms are dead.’
But they’ve forgotten the mass killing,
that happened in schools – the earth-shattering gunshots and the bloodstains on floors
“First time in eighteen years!” he says. “There have been none. It must be said.”
P.S. – The poem is based on a newspaper report https://www.theviolenceproject.org/about-us/news/ which talks about 2020 being the first year in 18 years which went with no mass killings in schools in the U.S.
*meds- medications used as a metaphor for coins inserted into a vending machine
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