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I Always Made an Awkward Bow - John Keats

“I always made an awkward bow.” ~John Keats





The old professor holds his mind

gooey between his hands—dripping

spackling all over the blue tile floors.


The professor holds his mind.

His is a dying breed.

The students- their faces fresh and pick marked and full of lust-

The students- their bellies full of fear in a dying world-

The students- their hearts full of inquisition (a kind of heartbreak he knows he cannot remedy)

they have moved on to other gods.


The professor holds his mind ~ cradles it

he holds it against his heart

every heartbeat

shooting electrical waves through his memories


The professor

            was a boy once


The professor

            broke his arm falling off his bicycle, once


The professor

The professor

The professor


he holds his mind up as if it is contagious.

he passes it around as though it were on loan

he asks who will accept his offer--                                                     (no one)


this was his world and it was enough. Once,

He goes back to his study where he keeps all the old books for which no one will pay him, he goes back to the quiet walls where he holds his ideas, he goes back and he is bleeding, he is covered in blood. He goes back and all the inside parts of him are dirty          from being carried around in the open air.







I hold up my mind.

I hold up my mind for inspection.

I hold up my mind                   It is a raw and cold Tuesday morning. I have my tea in my hands.

I carry the stop sign across the sidewalk, I funnel the kids out of the hall~


Listen, children,


all the things i ever was. had. held.

i offer them                                                                                          they cannot hear me   they

are sleeping                                                                 their fuzzy hoodies look down at their desks.


Maybe it will all be for something. Maybe it will all be for something. Maybe it will all be



Maybe it will all be

for something.                         So what, if the years have made me soft?

                                                So what, if the years have left me full of rot?

                                                I stand here now to warn you of your years—it is not much but it is

a kind of love. I don’t think you will ever see

i don’t expect                       you will ever


Listen, children,


I’m not looking for your sympathy.

                                                Should I be surprised that they disregard me?


Listen, children                       I hope,

that you will

someday disregard every living thing

that somewhere in doing you will feel something sharpen

you will feel something                                                                                  Snap.


I will take myself and my old mind and go                                                    for a walk.

I will sing it a song                 it will say


Let the children be free,

Oh, let all God’s little children be free.


Hailey Elles is a writer, teacher, and literacy organizer who lives in rural Vermont. She is committed to radicalizing the next generation. When she is not doing that she is probably communing with nature or singing a happy little song to her cats. She has a masters in secondary English education and is currently pursuing another masters in English (for some reason) at the Breadloaf School of English at Middlebury College. Her work has appeared in From Whispers to Roars, The Closed Eye Open, Ember Chasm Review, The Finger Literary Journal, Tempered Runes Press, 805 Lit, The Dillydoun Review, Beyond Words, Guangming Daily, Chariot Press, and Half and One.

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