Kneel and Pray

I’m back to hiding under my third-grade desk
back down here with the gum
while the shirtless bully grabs for our crayons
again and demands we thank him for it

I’ve spent a lifetime listening for that
whistle in the sky that would tell me
all my debts are forgiven my guilts absolved
by the new star dropping on our heads

who can forget the strange boy in our class
who coveted every crayon every kid’s lunch
the teeter-totter the swing the kickball
and swallowed every kind smile meant for another

that boy ended up in time-outs dreaming
of his reign when a giant gold funnel would
be dragged down Main Street by his sycophants
used to pour our treasures down his throat

so he could grow so tall and strong he could step
across the Mississippi like a crack in the sidewalk
and when he raised his hands it would mean we had
the choice to cheer or see the sole of his shoe dropping

on our heads and who would have been stupid enough back then to give this kid a nuke and a trigger and a cadre of brown shirts with the whole elementary school in his crosshairs and that would never be enough
for him; for him, there was no such thing as enough.

About the Poem

I thought the threat of a nuclear exchange was something left in the past. I never thought madmen would find their way back into power in Russia.

About the Author

Tom Barlow is an Ohio writer of poetry, short stories, and novels. His work has appeared in journals including They Said, PlainSongs, Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, Hobart, Tenemos, Redivider, Aji, The New York Quarterly, The Modern Poetry Quarterly, and many more. See more at

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