PSPoem

"Looking Charlie in the Face," Hannah Callahan, 12th Grade, Midwood High School

I am in this place because
I nodded my head,
Staring at nothing on the wall.
Thinking of high school,
Learning about the world,
Learning about the government,
Nodding our heads,
Staring at nothing on the wall.
Flipping pages and absorbing
Sentences, charts, graphs,
Dates of revolutions,
Names of battleships,
Foreign phrases, and
All the while-
Nodding my head,
Staring at nothing on the wall.
 
I am in this place because
Two men in uniforms
Struck me more with awe than
A man begging all of us for help.
Thinking of childhood and
Adults shaking fingers and
Talking about him and
His drug problem and
I nodded my head,
Staring at nothing on the wall.
Smelling bodies on the train,
Hearing coins hit each other
In a coffee cup, a dirty hand,
Layers of clothes and findings.
 
I am in this place because
I have Kurtz in my soul too.
You can take a man
Out of the jungle,
But you can’t take the jungle
Out of a man. I suppose.
Where there is buzzing
On a radio and a gun
In my hands and a body
On the ground and a
Body in the tree and a
Body in the water and a
Body on my shoulders and a
Body in the fire,
I nodded my head,
Staring at nothing in my eyelids.
 
I am in this place because
I woke to find a different kind of
Education that they don’t put
In their charts and graphs.
Looking at the things once called
“The Horror! The Horror!”
And places left smouldering,
People too. I am in this place where
I can’t nod my head and
Stare at nothing on the wall.
Instead I can lean over into the dust
Watching the light in a man’s eyes fade,
Feeling something the same in myself.
More radios are buzzing about Charlie this and
Charlie that, and he’s a big bad wolf
In the charts, graphs, and pages.
 
I am in this place because
The radios were howling like the
Children in the ash, and things keep
Falling all around- I should be
Running like the rest but
Here I am in the dust and the ash,
I’m burning all the charts and graphs-
I’m looking Charlie in the face.