Volume 28, Number 2

The Dark Ages

Learning came to a standstill during the Dark Ages,
Mrs. Laufenburg told us at the Wheat Hollow School,
eight grades gathered in one room to learn about the world,
and I imagined a locked door and boarded windows,
a year-round summer vacation, but without sunshine.

Not until I was fully grown did I realize Dark Ages
come and go:
sanctioned beatings of labor organizers,
interment of Japanese-Americans,
kangaroo court trials of un-Americans,
blood of young men shed for dominoes,
or carelessly spilled for crude oil,
the triumph of oligarchy over democracy,
the need for xenophobia and miscegenation,
the justification of bigotry and racism.

And now, long past middle age, I see public schools,
metaphorical locks on their doors,
sheets of figurative plywood nailed over their windows,
children of small rural schools like the one I attended,
clustered refugees in the new world of education,
a climate change during which the sun doesn’t shine,
and Mrs. Laufenberg worries about her teacher retirement.

—Gary Jones