Sunday, October 23, 2011

Villanelle for an Afghan Boy

This poem first appeared in the California Quarterly.

It seems my math class kills his joy.
He tucks his chin as he enters.
He’s a quiet boy.

He doesn’t try, just sits, uncoiling
lanky limbs. He won’t experiment
with polygons or graph a trapezoid.

“Math Class in Your Country” – he’d avoid
that essay choice, I was sure. One fluent
paragraph for a B. He’s such a quiet boy

that when he turned in a whole page, I rejoiced.
Then his words humbled my impertinence.
My math class didn’t kill his joy.

The Taliban came to his school with toys,
then laid out his teachers dead-center,
dead; he survived by being a quiet boy.

Sixteen of his teachers’ lives destroyed –
zero survival of dissenters.
There’s the math that killed his joy
and made him a quiet boy.


Fred Tracy said...

Eee! Powerful. Poor kid. :/

Mary Carol said...

Thanks for commenting, Fred. Teaching is awesome - I always learned more from the students than I taught them.