My imagination has always been a little library of worry,
where I drift from room to room
observing the imaginary goings on
in an attempt to not only predict what might happen
should I not change, but garner some knowledge
as to how to behave in waking life.
So why wouldn’t I think they’ve always watched over me
like a caring friend.
Even when they’ve been unpleasant, I’ve never stopped
thinking of them as kind ones looking out,
and in this one I’m back in middle school again,
and heads are turning in my direction
as if I’d just farted in class and was standing there
frozen like a deer hypnotized by the headlights
of a metal sea monster.
A teacher stands before her little soldiers
like she is great war general commanding her troops
to leave their personals aside and think only of war,
it’s hard even to think of her having
a family so regimented is her personality.
It’s as if she’d been hypnotized herself by a program
that psychologically regressed her to infancy
before someone entered her college dorm room
and sat by her fetal body on the bed with new promises,
which makes it difficult to not feel bad for her.
Like an elderly man in a lawn chair with his left ball
slipping sap-like out of his trunks,
she’d rather look at me from behind a mask
and tell me how I’m not living up to her standards
as some lifeless attempt to save me from cruelty.
It’s like she’s not even human,
or under some sort of mind control that’s flatlined
Thankfully, the fantasy shifts though,
and I can see my grandmother kneeling in the sand
at the beach with my 6-year-old self,
and she’s laughing and holding a wobbly sand pail
in front of my face,
and there I am reaching out to take it thinking
this long, white-haired kindergarten teacher
is the best friend I ever had,
and this is the best moment of my life
and just think lobster and ice cream are coming later,
I’m in heaven.
It’s how I know I’m neither of these teachers,
not that robot one up there in the poem
treating my imaginary teenage self
like he’s one of her obedient subjects,
and not the overly unconditionally loving version
further down in it who’s wearing my grandmother
like a swimsuit.
But that I worry sometimes that I will be,
if at some point I stop relying on my imagination to
to teach me how to ask questions that really matter,
and start forgetting where I put me.