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Sonic Boom - Karen Mandell

In grade school we'd stare

at the clock, the minute hand marching

relentlessly, indifferent to our questions:

How could a minute last so long?

Why does the hand shudder

at each mark of the dial?

Nothing to listen to

but the teacher's voice

shoes scraping under seats

sighs a cough a sneeze

the padded clunk of the blackboard eraser.

A sonic boom cleared out musty minds

and we turned to each other.

Breaking the sound barrier we whispered,

nodding knowingly, having heard of it

in science class. Equations, things squared.

But we weren't scared, except when Russia

planted missiles in Cuba. We said our goodbyes

on the school bus. When that passed

we got inured to unnatural noises.

Bombs didn't drop here anyway.

That all happened overseas

as the elders put it, though some of us

got sent off to hear for themselves.

Or signed up. Fathers and uncles

had all seen action before we were born,

some as refugees, fleeing Europe and wanting

to serve here. Everyone had a story.

But they didn't tell us. Except one

stationed in Burma who pulled out

his souvenir, the Kama Sutra,

whenever we stopped by. Far out

we said then escaped downstairs

where we could hear nothing from above.


Karen Mandell taught writing at the high school and college levels at community senior centers. Her stories and poems have appeared in various literary magazines. Karen has written Clicking, interconnected short stories, and Rose Has a New Walker, a book of poetry.



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