Pierre

By ISHION HUTCHINSON

 

It was a boy named Pierre Powell
that was in charge of the atlas

in the cabinet. He also ended days
by shaking the iron bell from principal

William’s window, a work we grudged
him for very little; what cut our cores

twice a week and we had to endure,
was him being summoned to fetch

the key, again from William’s office,
to open the varnished box with the world

map, old and laminated, a forbidden
missionary gift trophied beside the Oxford

Set of Mathematical Instruments and other
things seen only by Pierre and teacher Rose,

who now only nodded to raise him
to his duty. We waited in quiet

his return, Miss Rose all crinkled blouse
and bones with chalk dust in her hair,

did not stir until he was back, panting
at the door. Another diviner nod

and he opened it, unrolled the map expertly,
kneaded out creases and held down edges

for the ruler our eyes followed,
screeching out countries, and etched

in the periphery, a khaki-pillared Pierre,
with a merchant’s smile, a fixed blur

in our cry of Algeria, Switzerland, Chile,
soon withered away, and we eyed the field

of dry grass outside, a rusty mule,
statue-frozen in the punishable heat,

Pierre, a phantom sea fraying
over Antarctica, Fiji, Belize, India

of those still in the rote, a liturgy of dunce,
bats, whose one cardinal point, Tropicana

Sugar Estate, so close we could smell the sugar
in process, whistled its shift change,

and terminated Geography. As if punched
from dream, those of us gazers spared the map

rolling up and cabinet locking ceremony,
saw him, with a cord-strung key, an earnest air

bearing him away in a portal of sunlight.
He was absent, the week before summer,

and when Miss Rose, in rare fashion,
inquired, a girl said he had gone back home.

“Home,” Miss Rose sounded the strange word.
“Home,” the girl echoed and added, “him from Cayman,

Miss, or Canada, somewhere with a C.”
We turned to Miss Rose to clarify Canada

or Cayman, this elsewhere C curdled
to snow in our minds; foreign always spectral,

but she pointed anonymously a crooked
finger and said, “Run to the principal

for the key,” the whole class scattered, paid
no heed that not a single one was ordained.

 

 

Ishion Hutchinson‘s first collection, Far District, won the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award. He is an assistant professor of English at Cornell University.

Click here to purchase Issue 03

Pierre

Related Posts

picture of a bible opened up

February 2024 Poetry Feature

CORTNEY LAMAR CHARLESTON
There was tear gas deployed without a tear. There were / rubber bullets fired from weapons that also fire lethal rounds. There were / armored vehicles steering through the streets of the capital that stars our maps. // What we saw was only new to the people it was new to.

Headshot of Anne Pierson Wiese

Sharp Shadows

ANNE PIERSON WIESE
On our kitchen wall at a certain time / of year appeared what we called the sharp / shadows. / A slant of western light found / its way through the brown moult of fire / escape hanging on to our Brooklyn rental / building for dear life and etched replicas / of everything

Sunlight coming through a window. Photo from Pexels.

January 2024 Poetry Feature: Four Poems by Vinod Kumar Shukla

VINOD KUMAR SHUKLA
To get out of bed in the morning, / I don’t depend on anyone / except on my sleep. / If I’m fast asleep / and it’s time to get out of bed, / I find myself opening my eyes. / When I want to stay awake, sleep won’t come. / If I stay awake all night / sleep won’t come all night.