Here is my discussion of “School Poems” from The Cardinal Turns the Corner.
The air in study hall was thick with the smoke of pencils,
Scribbling to find fire on the page, ten teenagers
Looking for love in the smile their words might make.
Over in the library, some have rolled their sleeves,
Bent over a row of screens,
Their hurried breaths gyrating the pinwheels of their poems
As their fingertips clicked like cleats on the pavement of their laptops,
Letters dripping on documents,
A thousand rain drops on an old tin roof.
I walked past the boy on the steps with a halo of reverb
Plugged in from ear to ear, connected to a phone synced to his heart,
Drumming his palms against his knees like his life
Had been lived only for this moment, the wild abandon
Of one who’d learned to walk the plank
As the pirates of passion loomed behind him with their thick beards
And blades sharpened
As if to say, “Rock this one out or you’ll sleep in the ocean.”
The girl in the courtyard crooked one leg behind the other,
Curling her fingers around her phone in the cold
Like she knew the next message he sent would make her warm.
So she bubbled her poetry in blue, mailed it on the airwaves, and waited for his ellipses,
Three dots in Morse before three words she longed to read.
Down the hall, the kindergarteners knelt outside their classroom,
Upturning waxy bags of crayon and a dozen safety scissors,
Peeling the ghosts of Elmer’s glue from their palms
As they told their parents they loved them
With a red construction heart and a firm crease in the center,
A greater declaration of devotion than any sonnet could ever sing.
So I kept walking briskly in the air of this century
Where people still write poetry, breaking pieces of their body
Like bread for summer swans
And pressing them deep into a dozen syllables,
The friction of pounding feet and chattering teeth
As they toss their own words into the rushing waters of time.