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  • Carla Cherry


Updated: Jul 31, 2023

By Carla M. Cherry

Instead of smiles,

snapping fingers,

rounds of “Miss, that was fire,”

stiff quiet

choked me like a cloud

of cigarette smoke

after my students

finished reading my poem.

What is up with the cliche

about crickets and silence?

What I would have traded

then for the music of

midnight chirping.

My heart a kettledrum,

I assured them I have

elephantine skin,

that they need not like

every text I set before them.


Miss, you need to work on your poetry skills.

Why can’t we read Jay-Z? He’s a poet.

I promised we would.

On my way back from the restroom,

my friend

who teaches two doors down,

beckoned me to her class.

She waved at Anna,

who told her the poems

I have had them read--

Dylan Thomas,

Mahogany Browne,

mine--are too long.

My friend pointed at me, proclaimed

I am a prolific published poet.

Miss, don’t worry, Anna replied.

Your poem was good. Nick just wasn’t

smart enough to understand it.

“It’s cool,” I said,

but the pre-teen in me

wanted to repeat Anna’s insult,

laugh in Nick’s face

when I assigned the class

to write their own NYC poems,

and he showed me

eight lines of half-rhymes

about the subway

he insisted on reading aloud to us all.

It landed with the thud of a rock.

Pauses lingered in the air

before they assured Nick

his poem made them imagine being on the train.

But I sat before him,

nudging him to close his eyes,

tease out the names of trains he takes,

the colors of the subway seats,

movie ads tucked in frames above them,

the straphangers swaying

to the music in the chaos.

He promised to set it all to rhyme,

glint of light in his eyes.


Carla M. Cherry is a high school English teacher. Her work has appeared in Random Sample Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, 433, and Raising Mothers. A Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee, her five books of poetry, Gnat Feathers and Butterfly Wings, Thirty Dollars and a Bowl of Soup, Honeysuckle Me, These Pearls Are Real, and Stardust and Skin are available via iiPublishing. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the City College of New York. Carla can be found on Instagram: @carlabxpoet1.

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