Substitute by D.E. Kern

Substitute

So, it’s too early to figure
if the sun will do serious
business today with an Earth
coated in hoarfrost, my engine

eager to settle in its solid
state, frozen in position,
with just ghostly wisps
marking its latest efforts

gliding across the fractured
concrete. Two coffees shy
of useful, I pry open the steel
door, rise the stairs and key

my way through to these last
precious ticks of solitude
before chaos floods each square
of this fluorescent universe.

Now note the funeral march,
minus the bleating, this one
distinction between stockyards
and this drill in standards

fit quite coyly to gallows,
the sentence for a species
cursed to wrestle the knowledge
of its role in our mortal

comedy. She enters a day
already stained by error,
just a Johnny Rotten T-shirt
separating her from the queue

of the soon to be forgotten.
I would not notice her if not
rendered window blind, hit
by this bolt of brilliance

slinking in from a more
substantial world. A nimble
dodge to the left reveals
her wary face, jutting cheeks

masking the darkness of eyes
I know in a glance have seen
too much, a parade of husks
helpless against this enigmatic

prairie wind. A flannel shroud,
rolled up three times, discloses
striping—her declaration of a
been-there-done-that captaincy

her pound of flesh embossed
atop a little more, stretched
tight over a pencil-thin wrist.
I take a snapshot glimpse and

call the roll, careful to not put
a name with a face. Head still
hanging, a target for fortune, I
wait for the bell convinced

her salvation is not my cross
to bare. I am just a contrail
slashing her horizon, with
plenty of scars of my own.

by D.E. Kern

David on Facebook

Editor’s Note: This narrative sits firmly within the mind of the speaker, a teacher who has no energy left to reach out beyond what the classroom requires. I think most educators will understand this weariness.

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