Light wet on brown leaves,
4 fathoms below me
autumn dawns on the Puritan quad.

Here, journalism students
slump in industrial desk chairs,
waking into their names.

And I see the black eraser

on the work stand beside
the white plastic
flat screen computer monitor:

in our new smart classroom,

a black coffin of language.

I heft it:
sole of a Price Chopper shoe,
burned heel of Nazi boot.

All words ever on the blackboard
behind me
are in this eraser.

Decayed casket Ishmael rode.

And I think all of Bush's words
and stories of Iraq
are in this eraser.

Fossil tongue of mammoth dead
By fire.

One word in here means both
sand and death
but I cannot find it.

If we do not speak the old bodies….

I know another word in here
means flame and cash
but I do not know how to say it.

If we do not find the old names….

The students know, think it fair
their parents and I will lose
our lives and names in this.

I remember clapping erasers
cleaning them after school
as detention from a teacher,

puffs of white smoke
rising from the concrete steps
where I huddled from Russian.

We crashed, as stocks or towers,

maybe we were over Scotland,

maybe we were invading Carthage
or Georgia.

I know the black box with its names
for old pain and disaster eludes us.

I am holding a black eraser
as I start to explain
how we report hard news.

-Mike MacMahon

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