THOMAS BATES

  

Teaching Poetry to a Juvenile Offender

He wants to write about human suffering,
so I tell him the difference between
metaphor and simile, how a word
is only as strong as its closest companion.
"Father," he says, and scribbles a line.
We talk about comparisons. Sky is
not "blue" but "the color of Windex?" "Oh,
like a new bruise," he says. Another line.
Then there is contact vs. impact. He looks
away. Pay attention. We have so much
to talk about. How a lemon tastes like a new tooth.
How poetry has gone sour in so many ways,
too many poems about crayoned horses on the fridge
dashing headlong into an invisible wind, their bodies
outlines hollowed with white, waiting to be filled
by children who keep on growing, until they have
perishables of their own, and children.
"Mother," he says, and the poem is finished. I read:

Father, a cold raining down.
Mother, as still as a mare in a meadow.
Sky sky sky.