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Photo courtesy of Nicolas Thomas

Poetry

When Louis Armstrong Landed on the Moon

Quiz question: Who was the first person to set foot on the moon?

Student answer: Louis Armstrong

 

Picture his space helmet

specially equipped

to accommodate the trumpet.

 

He must have resembled 

a Seussian cartoon:

that polished horn

sticking stiffly through the visor,

the aperture gasketed

tightly with polymers,

a protection against oxygen leaks,

 

for this man with elastic cheeks

needed all the air he could get

on that airless orb

to shatter silence across

the Sea of Tranquility.

His jaunty rendition

of “When the Saints Go Marching In”

bopped its best that day,

and those saints in their heaven

that hovered like a low ceiling

over his bobbing head

realized slowly

that their feet had gone to tapping

against narrow golden streets.

 

As he leapt from rock to rock

across that milky desert,

surely his heart skipped beats

in time to music. Back home,

Mission Control heard his gritty vibrato

crooning a capella 

through the fuzz of the two-way

as he gazed backwards at the foggy earth:

I think to myself—

what a wonderful world.

By Jo Angela Edwins

 

Allergy

It was the quiet class that term—thoughtful,

waiting to be taught, counting to themselves

syllables in poems, charting characters in prose—

who saw it happen, my words quickening

like the gait of a chased gazelle,

my skin gone flush

not from embarrassment, or at least not much

from that, but from the hives that grew

like mutant fruits across my face,

my neck, my hands. At first I thought it

the product of bitter pills for my heart,

a slow organ not sure how to beat precisely

in the dark last days of 2016.

 

I tried to ignore it, teachers like dancers

on a stage, sore joints wrapped to remind us

the show must go on.

Then one day my tongue swelling between my teeth

left me feeling I’d bitten too much.

I waved them away and went dashing through offices,

begging for antihistamines.

 

Who knows what the students must have thought

as, when next we gathered, we switched classrooms

to escape whatever inflamed my skin

and fired my bundled-up nerves?

 

A year later, when it happened again

in a different room, a different class, I pieced it 

together: something about yellow chalk

didn’t sit well in my hands.

 

At that moment, I remembered the faces of the students

from the year before, watching rings cut through

my fingers, listening to words gone thick 

as fat ham on a hungry man’s tongue. 

 

That day, feeling sorry for me, they began to speak.

That day, they asked each other smart questions.

I could do nothing but listen,

and the songs their words sang were beautiful,

a balm to anyone’s overburnt ears.

By Jo Angela Edwins

Jo Angela Edwins is the poet laureate of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina and has received poetry awards from Winning Writers, Poetry Super Highway, and the South Carolina Academy of Authors. Her chapbook Play was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press. She lives in Florence, SC.

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