Pull Your Finger From the Plug by Benjamin Brindise

didn’t know what to expect
blank faces and loaded glances
Oh—this is the poetry guy
Can’t wait for this to be over

just finished a poem at Tapestry Charter School—
three hundred kids clapping and I am disappointed in myself
was only an old man yelling at them
assumed they missed the point

The room is dark
hear someone suck in air through their nose to hold back tears

The gymnasium clears out, but there’s one kid
he’s as tall as me and maybe sixteen
He comes up to me with tears in his eyes
says: Thank you

Late at night I think of the people I’ve talked to—
wonder if I’ve ever managed to deconstruct a wall brick by brick
or if these bloody knuckles I carry daily
are just a sign walls can’t be brought down

We walk through the charter school halls—
he tells me he wanted to kill himself,
but he’s doing better now
His girlfriend helps, I give him my card
When he sends a message on instagram I don’t respond

It’s the summer and I’m teaching poetry to kids
They tell me it’s boring
I envy them and wonder
what it’s like to find someone’s suicide note uninteresting

Six months pass before I message him back
apologize for being busy and think of empty nights I’ve spent since
drunk in front of a computer screen
convincing other people I’m a writer
Why do we ignore the ones most like ourselves?

They always thank me for coming—
never sure what to say when they tell me it helped
glad they have seen what cracks in the dam look like
hope they have learned to pull their finger from the plug

He never messages me back
I think about that a lot

Benjamin Brindise is the author of Rotten Kid (Ghost City Press, Spring 2017) and a Teaching Artist at the Just Buffalo Literary Center. He has most recently been published or accepted for publication in the My Next Heart: New Buffalo Poetry anthology, The Magnitizdat Literary, Foundlings, Page & Spine, Ghost City Review, and Peach Mag among others.

 

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