Learning

By Kelly Michels

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A new cure is invented every day,
along with a new disease
because every miracle needs a
disaster to survive, and there is no
shortage
of disaster, the sparrows have learned
to eat anything under the slash-and-burn
of the sun, and the children have learned
how to weave plastic buttercups into bracelets
between the alphabet and spoonfuls of NyQuil
their mothers give them before bed
where they dream of the swish of scar tissue
behind their teacher’s glass eye.

We tell them: There is horror. There is pain.
There are people wedged between bullets
and mud floors, between cracked river ice
and broken elevator shafts. But not here.
Never here.

Now, we sit still as an Eames chair, and the children
will never know the bridge of a song the rain spells
out in the sand on an October morning.
It is safer behind closed doors and windows, safer
where the wheat and ragweed and daisies
can kill no one.

We tell them: We have seen the grim amoeba of lake water,
the blizzard of ocean waves lashing against the curved spine

of coast, the blue-eyed grass raising itself like a rash toward
the swollen ache of sun, the sting of salt, grazing the long arm
of a bluff. We have lived it. We know better now.
We have knelt at the rim of a cliff and looked down. We
have fallen, felt the pulse of the sea pull at our hair and
it was not kind.

Child, put your ear to the conch shell and listen.
This is enough.


Kelly Michels is currently pursuing a PhD at University College Dublin. Her poetry has received the Rachel Wetzsteon Poetry Prize from 92nd Street Y, the Spoon River Poetry Review Editor’s Prize, the Robert Watson Literary Prize from Greensboro Review, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Poet Lore, Third Coast, Green Mountains Review, Poetry Ireland Review, among others. She is also the author of two chapbooks.

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