TO TEACH by Tyler Barton

Whenever she passes a picture she’s in, Jewell closes her eyes. She laughs. Jewell’s earlobes are drippingly long, and her granddaughter Tanny would like to see them pierced nine, maybe ten times. This makes Jewell laugh. Jewell has been convinced by friends to join the poetry club, because, they say, Jewell is always finishing their sentences with a slant rhyme, and damnit they want the real thing! Jewell laughs at them. The poetry teacher is a bear of a man at a pottery wheel until Jewell is told he is the pottery teacher. Jewell laughs through her apology. The poetry teacher is twirling with joy at something Lucille Clifton said. “That woman is a loon,” a poet in a wheelchair whispers. Laughing, Jewell watches the poetry teacher teach, but then she sees that the poetry teacher walked out of her apartment that morning and screamed a mean thing because she saw a ticket on her windshield, but then—and this is what tickles Jewell—when she saw that it was only a papery yellow ginkgo leaf, the poetry teacher screamed an even meaner thing. Jewell discovers this moment in the poetry teacher like a crumb in a man’s beard. As the poetry teacher speaks of inspiration and fearlessness and squeezing the muse’s two cheeks, Jewell sees through to the room where both screams started, small as pepper seeds. Jewell’s hand is up. The poetry teacher says, “Yes, you?” Jewell slides down out of her chair and crawls across the carpet toward her. “Here,” she says. “It’s a haiku.” Jewell doesn’t listen to her classmates’ gasps as she peels a leaf from the woman’s shoe. The yellowness turns to orange in her mouth. Then, blue. She can’t laugh while she chews or she’ll puke.  


Tyler Barton is a cofounder of Fear No Lit, home of the Submerging Writer Fellowship, Page Match, and Try This: Free Workshops. His collection of flash fiction, The Quiet Part Loud, won the Turnbuckle Chapbook Contest and was published in 2019 by Split Lip Press. Find his stories in Kenyon Review, The Iowa Review, Wigleaf and elsewhere. Find him at @goftyler or tsbarton.com
 

Art by Bob Schofield @anothertower

Read Next: PLAGUES AND OBLIGATIONS by Simon Henry Stein