A Poem by Leslie McGrath

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

To the Student Whose Mural Has an AK-47 Aimed at
the Heads of Faculty Members Entering the Ladies’ Room

How old were you when a teacher noticed your
unusually keen eye and the kind of brashness
an artist needs — twelve? Fifteen?
You’re the real thing
my high school English teacher proclaimed
one spring afternoon in my junior year
as he raked his chalky fingers
through his thinning hair.
I’d savaged The Waste Land
in a fury of adolescent cant and AP vocabulary
which earned me an editorship
on the school paper where I ridiculed
a born-again freshman touting The True Way
to God in language so venomous
for weeks our home phone rang
off the hook with indignant threats
from her loved ones.
No explanations. No apologies.
I was the real thing, the future of a world
in need of my independent critical thinking.
My teacher said so as we expanded my cache
of verbal ordnance.
As we honed my skill
in finding targets for self righteousness — 
I mean self expression — 
as I soaped the windows of our imagined enemies
rang their doorbells
then ran like hell after lighting a bag
of dogshit afire for them to discover
while we high-fived
in the getaway car of my teacher’s praise
of my courageous free speech.

Leslie McGrath’s latest book is Out from the Pleiades, a novella in verse from Jaded Ibis Press.

You will find more poems here. You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.