Mar 022012












Fighter jets loop fat chalk
marks on a turquoise

sky while I’m daydreaming
out my third grade

classroom window. The air raid
siren blasts and Mrs. Fisher hollers,

“Kids, get under your desks, arms
over your heads!” I crouch beneath

my pink metal bomb shelter, eyes
squeezed shut, waiting for the end. This

is what the last minute will be like,
I narrate to myself, The bomb

drops just like that, an enormoid
ball of flame bigger than the sun, but

it’s like reading The Weekly Reader out
loud and my mind drifts. Through

the classroom’s open door insects
pop and click. Weeds reeking

in desert sun: stinkweed, goat heads,
and alfalfa by the tether balls where

I practice praying to see if
it works. Please, make Dean Posey

love me. But he turns his buck-toothed
smile toward that nasty Cindy Mercer

and a sonic boom shakes the swings when
he asks her to play kickball. I punch

the deflated yellow ball against
its whining pole, hard, and I picture

the shrunken ball sucked away and
swallowed by a relentless

heaven. The fragile thread attaching
me to gravity

snaps and I whoosh into space,
whirl farther and farther above

this little earth, crash into John Glenn
and the Cosmonauts. Cracking open

one eye, I peek at my desk’s moonscape
underbelly of gum wads and dried

snot, wondering if the sky has
a ceiling like my bedroom at home

with its glow-in-the-dark stars, and maybe
you smash into it when you die, but what’s

after that? Now, Mrs. Fisher’s voice
slams me awake, “Children, readiness

practice is over. Your arithmetic
test is next.” And, climbing back

into my seat, I smell eraser
dust. Cindy Mercer’s eating paste

again; Dean Posey throws up
his baloney sandwich, and everything’s

back to normal.

—Kate Fetherston


Kate Fetherston’s first book of poems, Until Nothing More Can Break, is due out from Antrim House later this spring.  Her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including North American Review, Hunger Mountain, Nimrod, and Third Coast. She co-edited Manthology:  Poems on the Male Experience, (University of Iowa) and Open Book:  Essays from the Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, (Cambridge Scholars Press). Kate holds an MFA from Vermont College and was a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize in 2008 and 2010. She’s received Pushcart nominations from 2002 to 2011. Kate is a psychotherapist in private practice in Montpelier, Vermont. 



  One Response to “Readiness Practice: A Poem by Kate Fetherston”

  1. Takes me back to Belvoir Elementary a million years ago. Beautifully rendered elegy, Kate.

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