Growth / Homework
The year when grandma turned one hundred, we
could not see her. Our pandemic eyes not
yet sprouted. But we could feel her warm voice
on speaker phone, so many states away
as we gathered together, one last moment
before the quarantine potted us each
in separate chambers: bedrooms, garage, patio.
Each one of us a growing potato
with ladders of poisonous tendrils that spew
nightshade curses at disrupting door knocks.
Each one of us a confetti gun about
to pop. And yet, our shoots throughout the night
spread far, kept watch. Blooms only burst in light.
My tween in middle school sits at the table,
faces floating on a screen in compartmental
boxes. Brady Bunch squares to a Gen Xer,
like me. That show, like this year, the illusion
of togetherness. We’re all behind walls
and I can’t blame their wandering eye down
to a different device (another box)
in their lap where they draw their favorite
animated characters. They’re opting out
of this show already of optimism, sunshine—
their figures drawn in dark, with glowing
swords. How does a child decide not
to participate in a course? I never knew
that was an option. There’s a leveling
of our current times, when the fictional
realities, characters, scenarios seem safer
than the ones outside. Escape to astral
depictions of war, other species,
advanced weaponry. That is the place
where a middle schooler feels at home.
On that planet, intensive, without math,
without Roman laws, without religion.
On that planet, “pew-pew!” and brotherhood.
None of the characters suffer alone
in their room, or spend hours and hours
perfecting the curve of thighs, eyes,
battle stances on iPads. I draw myself in,
though my body looks janky, poorly
executed. I remind the main player
of a parallel world, in which homework
is requested by a certain hour, must be legible
to count. I am that character no one
wants around. The force keeps bringing
me back though, back I keep coming
back. Damn it, I’m going to win this war.
My hand moves through the wall—
Katie Kemple grew up in the Shawangunks of New York. You can find her most recent poems in Gleam, Lucky Jefferson, The Racket, Dwelling Literary, and The Collidescope.