Kumquat Challenge

by Quinn Welsch

Horizon Reporter

Whatcom Community College celebrates National Poetry Month on May 22 by hosting Kumquat Challenge in the Heiner building, and publishing 42 poems written by selected staff, faculty, and students.

First place goes to Donna Rushing, for “Where we Were.”  Second place foes to Kate Miller, and third place to Scott Blume. On May 25, at 8 p.m., students Ugur Dogu, Anna Harris, Katy Kappele, and Jessy Stewart will read their poems at the International Multicultural Festival.

Where we Were

“Bruce E Shulkey Elementary,
Fort Worth, Texas, 1963.
Inside, we third-graders, having pledged
allegiance to the flag
and having tortured the high notes
during yet another repetition
of Stephen Foster’s ‘Old Folks at Home’
in music class, now we gaze outdoors,
where on this November morning
the sun shines, though a chill wind stirs.

Now it is Social Studies.
‘Russia,’ says Mrs. VanTine,
‘is behind the Iron Curtain.’
My mind conjures a dark and endless curtain,
its creases and folds dangerous,
heavier than a million iron skillets
What does the curtain hang on?
I wonder, and why does a whole country
need a curtain?

Some days we have ‘Duck and Cover’ drills.
We line up quickly, boys and girls
in separate rows. “Keep the lines straight,”
says Mrs. VanTine, and ‘Keep in step!’
We march down the hall, and once in our places
kneel toward the walls in unison, as if in prayer
then fold into ourselves
gawky ducks in rows
our fingers laced behind our heads
rehearsing for the A-bomb.

Today there is no drill,
but Mr. Parnell’s voice comes through the loud speaker
making me forget my next thought
and he tells us that President Kennedy has been shot
killed  one city away in Dallas.
Mrs. VanTine cries.
My classroom enemies, Mitch and Rob,
say to each other, “It was probably the Reds.”
You don’t know that!” I shout,
startling myself.

At home, alone with their televisions,
all our mothers cry, gaze outside from time to time,
waiting for the children and then the fathers to come home.
Our President waves to the crows, in his element,
charming them, and us,
then is shot again and again, on those television screens
while he grows more and more remote.
We third graders don’t kjnow yet
that we will never forget where we were on this day.”

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