Mathieu Cailler


in science class, they sit
and take notes in
cow-speckled composition books:
atoms, epidermis,
photosynthesis, and the
earth’s perfect pull
of gravity
in math class, they calculate
how to build drawbridges
and fences
and try to prove proofs
and isolate variables
to determine their worth

in French class, they order
imaginary bread, translate
Baudelaire, and ask
where they can purchase

in English class, they study Poe,
discuss summary versus
scene, and learn long
multisyllabic words that 
halt conversation

in history class, blackboards
are tattooed with white
letters detailing Pol Pot,
the Chinese Exclusion Act,
the Tuskegee Study, and
smallpox-infected blankets

and no hands lift, no one

poses the question of when

are we going to use this?

but rather, they nod,
and think, 
               for how much longer?

Mathieu Cailler is the author of six books. His short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in numerous national and international publications, most notably in The Saturday Evening Post and the Los Angeles Times. He is the recipient of a Shakespeare Award, a Short Story America Prize, and a New England Book Festival Award. Heaven and Other Zip Codes, his debut novel and most recently published book, has been hailed “a postmodern masterpiece” by Midwest Book Review and was named the winner of the 2021 Los Angeles Book Festival.