Monday, March 24, 2014

Boys with Heroic Names

                                           The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss, picture by Crockett Johnson. Harper&Row 1945

Deep in the Bronx today
in a school mostly forgotten
except at test time
the third grade exam
was administered
to Tristan, Calvin and Axiom
in the faculty room
with its stained furniture,
odors of discouraging
Tupperware lunches, and
teachers' frustrations over
hazy causes and ancient battles lost-

The whispers 'round school -
High Stakes

Eight year old lives in the balance:
to lose and hang with humiliation?
Or to:
slash the head off this test, only to have
another grow back in its place?

They say a true hero knows he's going down
but goes there anyway -

Legs dangling off the chairs
these three
pencils scratching in circles
yawns - stoical chins
and one runny nose
Eyes on questions
and passages aimed to trick
and crush
like the clashing cliffs
Jason and his Argonauts twisted through -

Then - pencils down -
the tests are ziplocked, sealed.
and carted away in unmarked vans
like so much toxic waste.

Ok now, palms up:
the medals for Valor
are awarded
and they unwrap the foil
from the melting Kisses
that had softened in my pocket
from the heat of the morning.

~ Jane Nixon Willis

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