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Photo courtesy of Danielle Dolson

Poetry

Sisyphus logs onto his 9AM Zoom class

By m.o. kng

Sisyphus wakes up at 8:45 to his phone rumbling and a 

boulder sitting on his chest. Across the room he sees the

mountain of papers on his desk, shivers as the Gods spit 

rain over his windowsill. Ready for today? they ask and 

for a minute he almost considers closing his eyes, letting 

surrender’s warm embrace swallow him. But the weight of 

the days he has already lived wins out and he groans 

himself up in wordless reply, staggers over to his Macbook, 

types in a flurry of letters and watches the usual names 

materialize on screen. This is the morning crew, 

1st period, 9AM squad tuning into English class from their 

underworld bedrooms. Sisyphus sings to an ocean of 

black boxes: I need homework out, he exhorts, watches 

dispatches from his 10th graders wash up in chat. Mr. Sisyphus, 

my mic is still broken. Mr. Sisyphus, I got back from Wendy’s 

and took a fat nap. Mr. Sisyphus, my brother has a really bad 

cough and I’m worried. Mr. Sisyphus, do you know who won 

the election yet? Mr. Sisyphus - I’m so sorry I’m 

late. I woke up this morning with a 

boulder on my chest and I don’t know how to get it off. 

Sisyphus remembers what it felt like the first time he 

fought gravity and won, hit the summit, dared to leap before 

the rock rolled him back downhill, reminded him to 

remember his place. Isn’t that always 

how it goes - an uphill battle, the odds forever 

howling in our faces? Futile, as derived from “futilis,” 

Latin for leaking: a paper cup future we pour ourselves into 

because we have never known another way to live? Sisyphus, 

is your mic working? Sisyphus, is your WiFi back? Sisyphus, 

can you hear me? It’s me, Sisyphus. I’m here to tell you 

the rock never gets lighter but 

you get stronger, your muscles better at 

recalling what they have already weathered. If you 

really stretch it back, the word “sophomore” comes from 

“sophist” in English, which itself comes from 

“sophism” in Old French, and if you trace yourself back 

enough days, past pandemics and presidents gone wild, you 

get to “sophizestai,” Greek for becoming wise. Can you 

imagine us, Sisyphus, 

blowing the whistle on the God of the Sky, 

roasting the Reaper at gunpoint, 

scamming our way out of Hades, 

sticking our middle fingers up at the thundering fury of 

mythical men? Can you imagine us growing older, wiser? 

Can you imagine the havoc we could wreak, the 

heat we could generate, underneath 

the stone-faced surfaces of this world?

m.o is a high-school English teacher in the Bay Area who loves raising their adopted gecko baby, playing Ring Fit Adventure on Switch, and curating a sick collection of discount frozen meals. In college, they self-published their first book, speech therapy, in order to raise money for the Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence. Their 2021 resolution is to embrace failure in order to grow.