Just as two 13-year-old girls bounded up with a Welcome!

sign, so happy I would be reading poetry (and interrupting

Language Arts), the bell rang: Fire drill.

Students walked outside in an orderly fashion

arranged themselves in straight lines,

waited for the teacher to tell them it was safe.

They squirmed in conformity

while I flipped through a mess of papers

for the perfect poem.

When it was determined that all was well,

we returned to air-conditioning. Me, sweating

with fear to read a poem to middle schoolers.

Obviously, I read the wrong one

one that ran zigzag through

expectations for proper composition.

Sensing an emergency,

the teacher thanked me for coming

and ushered me out before the next bell rang.


The poem was Ted Kooser’s “Selecting a Reader.”