Ode to the Class of 2024
They bring me cupcakes
and late homework, creased
from the careless, apologetic depths
of their backpacks. They bring me
jokes their brother told them and
long-winded confessions that they too
stayed up too late
to do what they were supposed to.
They bring me stories about friends
who are no longer friends, carrying hearts
that have been scarred for the very first time,
will never pump as much joy as they once did.
They bring me questions that are far too personal,
news of birthday weekends, of new and sudden
foster placements, hallway tears
and white-knuckled curses under their breath.
They bring me mistakes and poorly shod promises
of future success. They bring me
their own poems, naked of imagery,
but overflowing with raw and precocious gut,
words they’re too young to know
describe their life with dangerous precision.
They bring me their dreams
and I knight them, these guardians
of tomorrow’s smiles. I tell them “go forth,
conquer until doubt is a smoking corpse
on a far, distant, black-pebbled beach.”
They bring me pins and we hoist their hopes
on their sleeves. They bring me to my wit’s end
and a frustration that grows only one inch taller
than their volume. They bring me to supplication,
leaving thanksgiving prayers scribbled
in colored ink right under their scores.
They bring me to dry-jointed, uncomfortable
bouts of half-sleep and unending storms
of ibuprofen. They bring me whistling
to work each and every morning.
Timothy Tarkelly's work has appeared in Back Patio Press, Unstamatic, As It Ought To Be Magazine, and more. He has two collections of poetry published by Spartan Press: Luckhound (2020) and Gently in Manner, Strongly in Deed: Poems on Eisenhower (2019). When he's not writing, he teaches in Southeast Kansas.