Poem:Telling Stories | Poetry | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram

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Poem:Telling Stories

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When I was ten,
I said a crematorium
was an ice cream parlor
for dead people. Even as my father
laughed, I knew fire
ravaged the body, that it
shattered the hair first
and then peeled the clothes away.
But the invention felt good
on my tongue. All through school
I couldn’t stop; hallways throbbed
with my voice, my deceit filling the air
with static and wonder: “The Spanish teacher
wants to sleep with me,” I told friends
between the thin gray lockers; and,
“Thomas Edison almost married my great-grandmother.”
My English teacher encouraged me
to write it all down;
my English teacher with a vein
of numbers tattooed on her forearm.
“We told stories to stay alive,”
she said. “To us, the Nazis
weren’t even humans.”
On the last day of school, our bus
stopped at a railroad crossing. My eyes
followed the boxcars as they lazied
by. I could picture the countless hands
sticking through the slats, rain skidding
across their fingers, their open palms
stunned by the chill of spring air.

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