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Chris Bullard​

Wanna See Something Really Scary?

Monsters are not ugly, 
but polished; not clad 
in rags, but wearing 
uniforms and crowns.

They do not hide
in shadows, but parade 
before crowds, who honor 
their cruelty as strength,

and are frightening,
not because they represent
the horrors we cram
into our subconscious,

but because they are
all that we aspire to be. 





Front row, fourth grade,
ribs pressed against 
the enveloping oak
writing arm of the desk
I try to memorize
Bolivia’s principle 
exports: zinc and tin, 
soybeans, natural gas,
solid items of rational
exchange between us
and a country I don’t
know anything about. 
I’ve just about gotten
them all down when I 
see everyone looking 
not at teacher, but back
to the last row of seats,
a place for our “slow 
learners,” a classroom
Siberia that produces 
only spitballs. Norman 
is ripping out clumps 
of his hair which he’s
dropped to the floor
like test papers marked “F.”
Some kids are laughing. 
Others have jumped up
from their seats to shout
“That’s so gross.” One
girl cries. I send my eyes 
front so I don’t have to see 
the strip-mined crater he’s 
excavated on his crown.
I don’t want to take in 
more images of the blood 
settling on his ear rim  
like snow on the Andes. 

The principal escorts 
Norman away, while I 
blank out  his deportation
by repeating “zinc, tin, 
soybeans and natural gas” 
a phrase I still employ 
as a sort of avoidance 
mantra when I encounter 
street shouters erupting 
about what’s been taken
from them or get asked
for coins from homeless  
men wrapped in blankets 
as dirty as plowed fields. 
“Tin and zinc,” I mumble, 
“soybeans and natural gas,” 
a litany of useful things,
whose names represent 
a reality that I’m sure of,   
an economic system I
can understand.  I just
tick off the resources 
of Bolivia and I’m off
mentally to another place, 
one that’s happy to supply 
whatever we desire 
without demanding  
we give anything back. 

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