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Earl S. Braggs
Late for School Again Today

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Hey, I'm sitting hereEarl S. Braggs
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Late For School Again Today

(A Photograph: An Israeli Settler Protects His Daughter During an Attack on the Road Linking the Crossing Between…)

 

On a road crossing the desert pastures of Palestine, 

a no-stop-street STOP sign stops 

foot traffic in its tracks, turns 

with Holy quiet 

anticipation, faces                  faces,    face to face,      so close 

to the impending 

to see what impends, unbuttons 

the top button of a suicide vest and blasts into 

oblivion               the slow science of walking to school. 

 

No-school-bus-to-ride suicide.   My father and I, we walked

this morning     into the evil blue breasts of 

a vest disguised 

by the makeup of a made-up pretty woman without. 

 

Detonation:      fresh green butter beans blasted 

into split peas,

still green, between 

the East Bank and the West Bank of no 

river to speak Holy of. 

Market day, 

ordinary, 

 

market square fully aware without 

being fully aware. Ugly 

love in the pretty eyes of an ugly, 

cloudy, 

maybe-it-won’t-rain again today.  

God must be still asleep or she might be

dead. 

 

We keep still, my father and I. Leaf

shaking without a tree.          We,

stranded beneath         a Palestine

vegetable stand table.  Overly ripe

 

avocadoes implode, guacamole-cilantro. 

Onions, diced, sliced 

twice like a salad. Carrots, cabbages

 

blasted into                    freshly pickled 

cabbage slaw.          Cucumbers, celery, 

olives, white grapes, all bleed red. Dead 

red potatoes, dead chicken feather 

broth,            tomatoes stewed into 

dead homemade soup.        Harmonic, 

 

a morning menu of the unlucky breakfast. 

We keep still. 

I can feel fear in the length of 

 

my father’s beard, longer than my hair, 

longer than my life. His wife, my mother, 

my father loved beyond            mistake. 

Promises, now, so uneven, so Holy unreal. 

The air smells like dead people’s smoke. 

My watch 

chokes to tick. I am late for school. 

I can hear bells ringing in my ear. 

 

Here, life is a step-stop stone 

in an ancient city of two suns

and one crescent moon.         Soon 

seems not to know how to forget 

or forgive. But I ask

how can any God asks anybody 

 

to settle for this life where children fall, 

children stay. 

Every day we walk to school between 

borders and bombs

and stray bullets 

with our names already written in roll books.

 

I am 15 years old, 

I am Jewish, 

I am a pretty girl without the makeup 

 

my father does not allow. We’re settlers, 

we’ve settled into the sounds 

of war auditorium music:  Mother, dead.

 

I was 5. The weathered sandpaper of mother’s

memory has rounded off the blasted sharp edges of 

this,                          a table we now perch beneath, 

 

clinging to despair disguises as hope, 

watching apples trade 

stock market prices with oranges. 

 

100% Juice, a tin can rolling down 

the sad but shady 

side of the road.  A bicycle frame with no 

 

front tire can’t see its back wheel 

still spinning 

slower and slower and slower until… 

 

Only the children know all too well, 

never, 

it will stop turning over 

 

the dead face of no promise of peace 

on this earth. Blasted 

blind, blinded, 

 

a man pats the sacred ground around 

his left foot, 

looking for his wedding ring 

 

finger. Smiling iceberg lettuce burned 

in place. 

God awful smoke music. 

 

Shaking,        still,     we keep perfectly, 

leaning away 

from the ills of invented

 

hate. Late for school, crammed into 

the perfect pocket of 

a nylon suicide vest. There will be no test 

 

today, no    final     exit        examination, 

no answers, 

no questions, no nothing but          God 

 

forsaken, God awfully bad poetry 

blasted into               then onto

the blown up,            bullet proof margins of 

desert brown, bulletproof notebook paper.

 

Earl S. Braggs

A North Carolina native from the rural-back-woods-fishing community of Hampstead,  Earl Sherman Braggs is a UC Foundation and Battle Professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Braggs is the author of fourteen collections of poetry. Hat Dancing with Miss Bessie Smith, Cruising Weather Blues and Negro Side of the Moon are his latest. Among his many awards are the Anhinga Poetry Prize, the Cleveland (Ohio) State Poetry Prize (unable to accept, manuscript won in two places at the same time), the C&R Poetry Prize, the Jack Kerouac International Literary Prize, the Knoxville News Sentinel Poetry Award and the Gloucester County Poetry Prize. Braggs’ novel, Looking for Jack Kerouac was a finalist for the James Jones First Novel Contest. His memoir, A Boy Named Boy, was published by Wet Cement Press. Obama’s Children is forth coming from Madville Press.