War of Attrition

The strike is ended
and the television tells me
The Mayor Has Won A Great Battle
and
Important Things About Superman

I ask my composition students:
What is a Just Law?
What laws currently exist which are not good for the gander?

Heather, I mean, Professor, I mean
I really don’t read the news
It’s just my opinion anyway

The greedy teachers
unable to strike over anything but salary
have completed their strike over salary
and have somehow anything but:
nurses, textbooks, paper, counselors

I ask my poetry students:
What is a Just War?
What is worth Wilfred Owen in the trenches and
The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner?

Heather, you don’t expect us to know about
I mean your class is cool but reading
history is you know I’m going to be a doctor

Children, I say, and their eyes glaze over
Laugh and shift in your seat

When I was 17, Schindler’s List,
Johnny Got His Gun, but first Metallica
Not only the starved old Jewish men
but Gas! Gas! Quick, boys—An ecstasy of fumbling

In Englewood in a school about to close
Under the watchful eye of The Mayor
A teacher strains to see
Which will the eight-year-old boy choose?

——-a)    To give up on adult intervention and hit the older student who’s been bullying him
——-b)    To embarrass his mother by telling the teacher that he can’t concentrate because he’s hungry, not
————–because he’sstupid
——-c)    To maybe make some real money like his father must be doing, like a real man
——-d)    To get as far away from here as he can

This is a test, not a ballot
Choose from the existing options

Children, the tests say, and their pupils dilate
When you are 17 jail or maybe dead

And what do you know, what do you know?

Well, Miss Heather, ain’t you a child o’ Jesus
and what do YOU know about music anyway
Dance teacher?  Well.

What else don’t I know?
A girl with glass and lice in her hair
The sound of screaming as alarm
When you look for home, only smoke

What can governments mean
When your skin is on fire

*

H.V. CRAMOND is the Poetry Editor for and a Co-founder of Requited Journal for Innovative Art and a Writing Instructor at Loyola University Chicago. She holds an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the City of Chicago’s Community Arts Assistance Program.Her poem “War of Attrition” was a finalist in the 2013 Split This Rock Poetry Festival Contest judged by Mark Doty.  Some recent work can be found in Soundless Poetry, Keep Going, Wunderkammer, Ignavia, death hums, and Pandora’s Box (Southport Press, 2011).  Read more of her writing at hvcramond.com.

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