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  • Abby Manzella

Routine Knowledge

Updated: 3 days ago

by Abby Manzella

I don’t want to know how many papers I have to grade—

submitting online, click, type, click—

or why it takes so long for heat to reach the shower head

only to last an instant.

These insignificant inconveniences

should keep outside the purview of my concerns.

I want to grade without counting.

Hop in and out of the shower, refreshed.

Each day, though, the smallness of it all returns,

the chill to the skin,

the worry that there isn’t enough time,

that the next generation isn’t learning

what it needs. That these bullet points

won’t stay symbolic.

And who am I to teach? How can I keep

them safe?

Outside, an unseen chickadee

is stuck on two notes. High, low. High, low.

These are the materials she has to work with—

her song simple and short, but music still—

and so I weave a melody around her stable base.

For the water still runs and the children still learn.

I am clean and yesterday a fresh face stood before me,

class ended but thoughts still flowing. She said,

“I didn’t know. I didn’t know. Until today, I didn’t know.”



by Abby Manzella

My students can’t pronounce “persimmon.”

The word sits still in a prompt I announce

to play with color and sound.

As they read aloud their own writing

with this untamed word in their mouths—

its stresses stressing them out—

I think of what else has been withheld.

The dripping juice of the fleshy fruit

that made my hands sticky as a kid,

sitting high upon a stool to celebrate

the sweetness of the winter season.

“Leaves fall, crimson and persimmon”

I had written this phrase, a point of release,

but if they can’t speak of its flesh from experience,

they cannot see the vibrant orangish-red, nor hear

the hush, as it drifts to the ground in imagination.

With them, I seek to share so much,

but the semester is short.

Can I deliver this one word

to taste on their tongues?

It seems easy enough, but the steps to the claiming

of a concept, to the grasping of its fruit, are many,

and today our focus is color and sound.


Abby Manzella is the author of Migrating Fictions: Gender, Race, and Citizenship in U.S. Internal Displacements, winner of the Society for the Study of American Women Writers. She has published places such as Lit Hub, Catapult, trampset, and Colorado Review. Find her on Twitter @abbymanzella.

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