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Night Letters

Mike Gubser

I know how to read and write by dark, just
as much moon as I need. The white
paper curls
up in hot wind, its dry corners
hiding my words.
on the top and bottom
pin the message to the door. A bitter sun. You’ll use your palms
to flatten the sheet on the wood. Dust will stop
your throat. You’ll think that somehow I learned to write,
complain that I deny the same good
to others. True,
I know the words “student”, “teacher”, “stop”, “leave”,
“you” and “us.”
Does a person need more words?
I know how to burn, that
a schoolhouse built of plank
quickly, completely,
that bone and blood turn to ember,
that even fingernails don’t grow in ash.
The schoolhouse bakes to splinters in the sun
while you teach the children and I wait for night.
What can I add to your project but show that children burn
too? Morning, mid-day, afternoon – a single heat. Even iron nails
blacken and sink in cinder where I can dig
them out to hang
more letters
if you
We can teach ourselves about justice, piety,
freedom. But
your hands are filled
with the lives of our children, and their safety
hangs at your door. When you read
this letter, leave our land. It belongs to us
and to the children.
Though I do not want to kill, I will if I must.
I learned to write so I do not have to.
Now you must learn to read from us.
As your bulletins say, literacy holds the key to life.

Mike Gubser

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