The Yawn

May 3, 2019

Today’s poem is "The Yawn" by Kimberly Cloutier Green. Kimberly is a poet and teacher living in Kittery Point, Maine. She's the author of The Next Hunger (published by Bauhan Publishing/UPNE) and the ninth Poet Laureate of the City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. 

She writes, "'The Yawn' is informed by the extraordinary poet Mekeel McBride, whose whacky way of looking at things inspired this poem. Mekeel is a dear friend and was, at the time I wrote that poem, a colleague of mine in the English Department at the University of New Hampshire. Her marvelous sense of humor and apprehension of the mystical in the everyday helped me experience my classrooms and teaching itself as containers for the whimsical and the transformative."

The Yawn 
by Kimberly Cloutier Green

Long streams of afternoon light
pour in through classroom windows
shut tight all these winter months
against persistent cold; chalk dust
floats in slow waves on the air,
swirls as my students shuffle in
on grime-soaked paths of ice and sand.
They’re dutiful, pale, smaller in their bodies
on these drawn, withering days—even the languid
scritch and rustle of their work, taken up without argument,
is soporific as the clock’s slow tick... tick... tick...

Then, from the back, a yawn.
Not some clamped-down apologetic thing,
but a full-body yowl, head thrown back,
arms and legs flung wide, this boy’s face
all glistening teeth and pink tongue.
He shakes his head and licks his lips
like some stuporous bear,
settles into himself and the work at hand,
but that yawn has changed everything,
charged the air we’re breathing,
and suddenly we’re shifting in our seats,
startled by what’s been released— 

moist neutrons of loam and crocus,
shivery protons of birdsong and fern,
and I don’t mean imagined cosmic blush
of spring breaking out like some invisible Big Bang,
but the real thing, fever-pitched, right here in 101—
all that chalk dust turned to pollen,
those grime-soaked paths to sweet water,
stale air to oxygen so pure it dizzies,
and one by one we open our snowblind eyes
to see the long green kiss coming our way.
Even the girl writing my heart is a city in the rain
puts down her pen and—she can’t help it—leans
into the gold light that drapes across that page. 

Poem copyright ©2013 Kimberly Cloutier Green. Reprinted from The Next Hunger, Bauhan Publishing, 2013, by permission of Kimberly Cloutier Green.