The Autoharp Maker
Not exactly Appalachia: stretch-marked
blacktop stretched across the Susquehanna
into hills stacked like supper chores or a
chorus of shrugs when fish won’t bite to a shed
where an old man’s furrowed neck implies
he breathes through gills, sees right
through me and sawdust-addled lamplight
to the day his music died. It was
fourth grade – we tried to keep straight
faces while we sang “Rock-a My Soul
in the Bosom of Abraham,” and failed
despite Miss Kreider’s grim accompaniment.
Bill shows me how the pins are planted deep
to sing the grain that fed even the greenest leaves.
Regarding Your Display of Independence
(For Jonathan Kozol)
The hell did you think you were doing
teaching those kids Langston Hughes?
My roof has sprung a leak” – you might as well
have shoved coke bottles, gasoline, lit fuses
into hands God intended for hotel maids,
broom-pushers, makers of license plates. Hell,
“Throw it in the street” is right there
in line 16 – those cocktails would never fly
on Beacon Hill. Better those kids learned
their place, and soon. You had eyes to see – Roxbury
was a zoo; your job to keep the animals
quiet in their cages. Instead you set them pacing.
“You ain’t gonna be able to say a word
If I land my fist on you.” This would obviously
never do. We’d never countenance violence. Yes,
we sometimes whipped the worst boys in
the basement – that was “corporal punishment,”
for their own good. You knew this neighborhood,
what despair was meant to feel like. Your tiny
smudge of hope was lipstick on a pig – lucky
we fired you before they fired us. Yet I can say
we’ve learned from your mistake, the one that
got you tossed out 50 years ago. We now
teach only to the test – think “Dick and Jane,” not
“He’s trying to ruin the government
And overturn the land!” We’ve almost lowered
the stars and bars for good, but fortunately
not our standards. “See Spot run, ad infinitum.”
We’re still common to the core, by declaration.
Ed Granger lives in Lancaster County, PA, where he works for healthcare nonprofits. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Little Patuxent Review, The Broadkill Review, Potomac Review, Roanoke Review, Free State Review, Naugatuck River Review, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, The Delmarva Review and other journals.