Their voices got thinner and smaller. It was not
my hearing. The distance increased
between the desk and first row,
a shield  went up. Sometimes I found myself
on the other side, looking at the old lady
gesticulating, hearing coughs, sighs.

Their language dropped letters, words.
Verbs scuttled off. The messages took on
odd implications: R U in? CYA Mon ?
I read them Wallace Stevens and Shakespeare,
my tiny voice plinking against the shield
and falling in fragments in front of the desk.

I started to dream about snowstorms,
forgotten weather.  Thought of that Conrad
Aiken story no one reads any more,
"Silent Snow, Secret Snow," the snow
that came every morning closer
until it muffled everything. I even

assigned it, but they didn’t read it.
Will this be on the test? Yes.
It is the test.

Journals publishing Janet McCann’s poems include KANSAS QUARTERLY, PARNASSUS, NIMROD, SOU'WESTER, NEW YORK QUARTERLY, TENDRIL, POETRY AUSTRALIA, etc.  She has won five chapbook contests, sponsored by Pudding Publications, Chimera Connections, Franciscan University Press, PLAN B PRESS, and SACRAMENTO POETRY CENTER.  A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, this crone poet has taught at Texas A & M University since 1969. Her most recent poetry collection is The Crone at the Casino (Lamar University Press, 2013.) 

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