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's Author Photo

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.