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 square fully aware without
being fully aware. Ugly
love in the pretty eyes of an ugly,
maybe-it-won’t-rain again today.
God must be still asleep or she might be
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.
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,
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
slower and slower and slower until…
Only the children know all too well,
it will stop turning over
the dead face of no promise of peace
on this earth. Blasted
a man pats the sacred ground around
his left foot,
looking for his wedding ring
finger. Smiling iceberg lettuce burned
God awful smoke music.
Shaking, still, we keep perfectly,
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 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.