Barbara Lau









What would you give to stay in that mid-August daze

of glory, before the students arrive and it’s just you
and Roethke and the incense of freshly glued
textbooks, their pages sleek as ironed bed sheets.

All 100 new poems in Norton’s 8th edition

zoom off the page like hummingbirds, each crisp syllable
and edgy off-rhyme buzzing, buzzing at your side.

                           Oh to be the ringmaster

of your very own three-ring circus! On your right—Bishop

bows and pulls a codfish from her tall top hat. On your left—

Ginsberg sits full lotus position atop a tie-died elephant

pitching rose petals and sunflower seeds to the band.
Above—black sequined Plath is on the high wire / no net

while in the bleachers, Gerry Stern is hawking hotdogs,

beer nuts, ecstatic clouds of cotton candy.

Everyone gasps at each twist of the line

break, each leap through the confessional ring of fire.


Then come the last rhymed couplets of evening.

Contortion twins Louise & Rita bow backwards

to the crowd, which signals the tractors’ slow approach

and the students` trudge across campus.

Still you refuse to budge, year after year, entrenched

in your books, your highlighters, your yellow post-it notes

like the huge flapping shoes of clowns.

Even the tents topple down in one large sigh,

as the dolor of chalk dust dulls the blackboard’s shine.