Today’s poem is “Flat Stones” by Jefferson Navicky. He was born in Chicago and grew up in Southeastern Ohio. He is the author of the poetic novel, The Book of Transparencies, and the story collection, The Paper Coast. Jefferson is the archivist for the Maine Women Writers Collection and teaches English at Southern Maine Community College. He lives in Freeport.
He writes, “I love love love Shirley Jackson's short story 'The Lottery,' which I find to be one of the most delightfully, wickedly, and exactingly unhinged stories in the history of literature. The story is about the one day a year when a quintessential New England town gathers for a lottery that is anything but beneficial to its winner. You don't have to go too far into the news of the world today to find the material for the rest of the poem.”
By Jefferson Navicky
We armed the kids with rocks. It seemed like the best thing to do. It just came to us one day after the kids read “The Lottery.” Small skipping stones, but not too small, flat and easily whippable, the kind that almost sing when airborne. We gave the teachers bigger rocks, pavers, because we figured they could be trusted with more lethal force. Each student had a rock holster attached to the side of the desk. We got a grant for those; the rocks we gathered one volunteer Saturday at the lake. One of the Little League coaches came in to instruct us all on how to throw a stone straight and true. Each student painted their initials on their stone so that if we had to use them, the heroes would be able to be acknowledged and properly honored.
We determined the hour most likely for an attack is the hour after lunch, and thus every day from 1:00 to 1:30 we arm ourselves, crouch under our desks, and wait for the terror to set in, and every day for that half hour it does, it rushes in, a quiet quivering, a terrible honor, this prehensile waiting, stones at the ready, and then at the 1:30 bell, we return to normal. We go back to learning. Phil Conrath got spooked last Thursday and threw his rock through a classroom window at a bird. We don’t know why he did it, but we all know why he did it. We went into lockdown. It felt like a relief, like what we were training for had finally come to pass and we could finally move into the glory beyond it. Phil Conrath was suspended. And despite everyone’s level of upset in the wake of this near tragedy, I commend us for our continued ingenuity and conduct in the face of a fear that knows no bounds and is impervious to what we throw at it.
Poem copyright ©2019 by Jefferson Navicky.