"The United States of Montessori" by Clemonce Heard

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April 28, 2022 

The United States of Montessori

Clemonce Heard
for Oray

We sat Indian style, & sang our pledge
to Audubon, painted birds on every wall,
& heard mirage when our teachers said
mural. We stole soccer balls from French
exchange, spiked them on the walkway
& yelled touchdown. My friend, where
are you now? We tripped over tree roots
racing to the playground, walked the sea
of wood chips to the plastic ship’s eye
& wheel. We bartered Super Donuts for
extra cartons of chocolate milk, played
duck, duck, duck, duucck, duuuuccckkk
goose. We vamoosed around a sunken
circle of laughter. We were hedgehogs,
were road runners & sombrero mice.
We were bullets, the Flash & every Green
Lantern; the Black ones, the White ones,
the alien ones too.

Copyright © 2022 by Clemonce Heard. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 28, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“I wrote this around the violence we sometimes do in the name of art and science, i.e., John James Audubon killing birds for the sake of a more comprehensive catalog. Those thoughts are filtered through an homage to my first friend, Oray, who moved away, or was possibly deported, at the end of our second-grade year.”
Clemonce Heard

Clemonce Heard is the author of Tragic City (Anhinga Press, 2021). The recipient of fellowships and residencies from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Sala Diaz, he currently lives in New Orleans.
Tragic City
(Anhinga Press, 2021)

“where all, we flowers” by Jasmine Reid
read more
“Pledge Allegiance” by Natalie Scenters-Zapico
read more

Thanks to Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Cast Away: Poems for Our Time (Greenwillow Books, 2021), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Listen to a Q&A about Nye’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year.
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