White Screen, Black Words



Aglow on the white screen her poem

Hovers over rows of glazed eyes

And minds numbed by noise


A poppy farmer’s tragic tale

From half a world away she’s

Captured for a lesson in imagery


Machetes hack illegal blood-red

Petals scattering seeds like coins

Across the gray Afghan stones


The farmer falls to his knees

Weeping while his wife stirs

A pot of shriveled sugar beets


Black words on white describe

Seven small expectant faces

And stomachs growling in the night


Slouched and sipping Evian

Her students yawn and toy with

Shiny ipods cupped in their hands


Her words explain how the farmer

Cannot pay the grim dealer in opium

Whose mouth scarred by brutal brawls


Contorts and rages then demands

One soft young daughter for his bride

She who had planned to teach children


The white screen clicks dark

Students stumble out the door

Thirsting lattes and slick sleek cars


But one girl later in math class

Draws red poppies in her notebook

And thinks of a gray draped shadow


Trudging toward a waiting wagon                                            

A small bundle clutched in her hand                                                    

Resigned to fate and silent mountains                                     


Then with pencil and blank white page                                   

She copies out the day’s equations
Seeking solace in the answers

                                                                       Kate Hutchinson