Learning Our Lessons
As a kid I learned my lessons well.
If you learn your lessons well
you can go to college,
become educated.
At home I learned about how to use money well --
pennies and nickels, later quarters.
I learned about those who didn't,
money lenders in decaying European towns.
In the history classroom I learned about nobility,
about those who lived on the flowing plains
under endless skies.
Savages who didn't understand our ways,
whose trophies of war were different than ours.
In the civics classroom I learned about democracy
who should have it and why.
Why those who didn't have it were less than us,
Teaching was subtle as we learned between the lines.
In the auditorium I learned about patriotism and honor.
I learned about civilizations,
who carried it and why.
Why mushroom clouds were civilizing gestures
taming unruly crowds far from home.
In church I learned about love.
I learned about witches and heathens and Crusaders.
I learned about where the acolytes would go,
someplace better,
someplace the other kind would have liked.
In the streets all the lessons came together.
The way we walked and talked,
swaggered and taunted.
We had a good neighborhood,
good folks in a few good blocks.
Later I had learned my lessons, got educated,
ready to pass on what I had learned
to my kids, my students, my new friends,
ready to wave banners and show others
what honor meant in the old way, our way.
One night, years later, I heard a sound,
something outside my walls, a doleful sound.
Perhaps an owl's note or a dripping faucet.
I only heard. No thought arose.
I felt a tear on my cheek.
- Charles Martell

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