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Saturday, August 16, 2008


by Carol Dorf

1) February 13

In the park outside my classroom, flags --
Twenty foot by thirty foot stars and stripes
Patriotic music blares from speakers.
They want us to be nice to the military recruiters.

Police in riot helmets, face plates lifted stand
watching 30 or 40 people.But this is Berkeley,
so there are bike cops in bike helmets,
and bareheaded community service officers.

Across the street pink signs, more flags, some stars
and stripes, some with peace signs; maybe 75 people.
In between, there are television trucks with their cranes,
reporters waiting for something interesting to happen.

Every 60 minutes, a new group of students, jams
to the windows to watch the action, and then I hustle
them back to their seats. "Find the vertex," "If a rocket is shot
directly upward with an initial velocity...," not the best example for today.

At lunch someone gives kids orange bandanas
and they walk around the park to protest the war.
The skateboarders watch at the edges, pissed off
that their playground has been given over to the big picture.

People come from all over the country to blast
patriotic rock and scold us into loving the war.
They imagine us in a myth of the sixties -- the houses
and apartments of our day-to-day lives invisible.

2) February 14

Valentine's Day, and the school fills
with balloons and stuffed animals.
Tomorrow is Lincoln's Birthday observed.
Gulls pick through the trash on the out-of-towners
side of the demo: coffee cups, bags of chips, napkins,
wrappers. Did they try any of our ethnic restaurants,
or Chez Pannisse alumni coffee shops? Berkeley's
industrious poor have already sorted
through the recycling leaving the rest of the trash
for the city to deal with. Next week, I'll teach factoring.
Today teenagers devour candy hearts.

Carol Dorf's poems have appeared in New Verse News, Fringe, The Midway, Poemeleon, Babelfish, Edgz, Runes, Feminist Studies, Heresies, Poetica, Responsa, The NeoVictorian, Caprice and elsewhere. She is a former editor of Five Fingers Review. She's taught in a variety of venues including a science museum, and as a California Poet in the Schools. She now teaches at Berkeley High School.