Jan 29, 2013

The Crackle of Pig Skin

"The panic, the vomit."

The boy is told in 3rd grade about the Revolutionary War.
In 5th grade, the Civil War.
The teachers tell the class to underline the estimated body counts:
know them. A few commas between some numerals.
When he’s 12 years old he’s sent home from school early one day
and sees two planes crashing into two buildings,
two buildings falling,
people jumping from the buildings.
A few months later, a picture in a text book
of a man about to be shot in the street.
The man holding the gun looks calm.
Then the Holocaust, concentration camps, gas chambers.
High school, the boy’s told stories
of bound feet, ancient tortures used to make people talk,
decapitations, people being thrown in woodchippers,
monks lighting themselves on fire.
The text in the books is printed in standard fonts,
left to right in tight columns
wrapped around graphs, maps, pictures, facts.
Everyone who tells him sounds grave, though unalarmed.
A bell rings.
He loads the new information
back in his bag, throws it over his shoulder,
walks down the hall to Chemistry,
lunch, Spanish, Calculus, practice, shower, home, dinner,
where there are people talking about how their days were.
“Anything new in school today?”


  1. "Everyone who tells him sounds grave, though unalarmed."

    I feel like "wrapped around graphs, maps, pictures, facts" has the potential to become a metaphor for something else. Like
    The text wraps around graphs, maps, pictures, facts/ like the photos of rope around trees/ like the monk's fingers around that match
    ... or something. Otherwise I wonder the necessity of that mini section. Also, I'm wondering if the "nah" is necessary at the end? I do like the nonchalantness of the word "nah," though. I'm just wondering if it's necessary. I like that you seem to be zeroing in on the idea of becoming desensitized to violence and how it's "nothing new." I think there's room, if you'd care to expand on this at all, to discuss how as humans we only have so much energy to concern ourselves with the past as well as the present; to concern ourselves with others' existences and with our own. Maybe that could be somehow worked in with a metaphor about space in the backpack.

    OR not. Just my 2 cents. Nice poem, overall.

  2. Sweet, glad you like it.

    Yeah, that short section wasn't phrased properly. I tried it again. I would definitely like to expand and mine this poem for more.

  3. I'm very interested in how our minds/brains view images and respond to them. I'd be happy to grab my pick and do some mining.

  4. For me, it wasn't so much the response to images as it was, just simply, what does that do to a person, to grow up knowing that these sorts of things happen on a daily basis all over the world to numerous people? How does it affect a person to know that this sort of violence is somewhat normal human behavior. It happens. It's only till very recently I can start to look at that sort of behavior with alarm and think, "Holy shit, something is seriously wrong here! Why is this happening at all?!"