On the Syllabus
by Devon Balwit
What we’re trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning, it’s the feature…
Sign me up for failure 101, teach me
a cat’s cradle for empty hands,
a repurposing. Walk me through a syllabus
detailing loss: this being ignored, this
belittling, this rejection, this the brain
consigned to a shelf, this the body
constrained to the traces, a hard-used
machine not under warranty. All my life,
I’ve been cotton-swaddled, able to fall
the length of the belaying rope
but no further, always bailed out
before a night spent on piss-stained
concrete. Push me down, but gently.
Punch me where I am already
padded. Let me practice bruises
before fractures, being average
before the hard-scrabble of a tarp
on the banks of the freeway.
Thank you for helping me transition
into ordinary, for easing me down
from my pedestal. I have taped
your certificate to my wall, a surrogate
for the mantel, the well-dusted altar
of the bourgeois temple.
* * * * *
Devon Balwit teaches in Portland, OR. She has six chapbooks and three collections out, among them: We are Procession, Seismograph (Nixes Mate Books), Risk Being/Complicated (A collaboration with Canadian artist Lorette C. Luzajic); Where You Were Going Never Was (Grey Borders); and Motes at Play in the Halls of Light (Kelsay Books). Her individual poems can be found here as well as in The Cincinnati Review, The Carolina Quarterly, Fifth Wednesday, the Aeolian Harp Folio, Red Earth Review, Queen's College Quarterly, The Fourth River, The Free State Review, Red Paint Hill, and more.