The Journalism Student
We lived by column inches, hermetic deadlines,
the pleasure of our names above the fold.
Hunched over stand-up tabletops, our fingers
capped with wax, we wielded dull X-Acto knives,
pressed yards of adjective-free copy to the page
with rubber rollers. Conjured photographs
in a closet in the basement, a red light to let
secret lives float up in chemicals, unharmed,
in dark. Our images, small flags, in black and white.
One afternoon the Jurassic woolly-scented
teacher said to me, You’ll have a scholarship,
the letter’s here. She waved it in the air.
That meant I’d go to college and whatever that
would be. On that day, I was a girl, a receiver,
who would tell you now I’ve never
understood enough, can only faintly see
the sealed and sacred hearts of others
and all that matters in this marveled,
savage world. The ruined empires
of the poor. A burning girl
running through a photograph forever.
The faces of men, and women, broken
open by their wanting. On that lonesome
afternoon I turned back to our work,
our last brave words finally staked
to paper, our pages off to press.
An unread letter on my desk.