July 2014 Sestinas
Shaindel Beers is the author of two full-length poetry collections, A Brief History of Time (2009) and The Children’s War and Other Poems (2013), both from Salt Publishing. She teaches at Blue Mountain Community College in the high desert town of Pendleton, Oregon, and serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary. Learn more online at http://shaindelbeers.com.
Sestina Inspired by My Students
I wish there was cut and paste on paper.
She’s so young the phone is her medium.
Were there exchange students in 1973?
another student in fiction writing class asks.
Each year, Beloit College makes us all feel older
with their facts about each entering class
of freshmen, the sea of faces growing younger every class,
the distances between us growing with each paper
they hand in, the topics making me feel older.
What is a thigh gap? A bikini bridge? The media
shapes them in ways we couldn’t have imagined, asks
them to be impossibly thin. Flawless. 1973
is ancient history to them. 1973
to them is what 1954 was to me. History class,
a time I could only imagine from TV shows. Asked
my parents about. I know the newspapers
were written at 12th grade level then. It was the medium
of the people. Now, the papers are gone. Only older
people read on paper. Everything’s online. Old
people buy books, a student says, opening her Kindle. 1973
was only four years before I was born. Am I middle-
aged? If I live to be 74, I am. The guitar class
next door plays a song from 1995, the year I got my paper,
walked across the stage at the high school gym. Ask
me the lyrics of any song from that year. Ask
me who’s on the radio now? I couldn’t tell you. Oldies
stations play Nirvana. Twenty years since papers
told us Kurt Cobain was gone. Wasn’t 1994
just ten years ago? We sat in class
as the Channel One TVs showed the news. Media
icon Anderson Cooper still had brown hair. The median
income was just over $32,000 per year. Ask
me if I’m better off now. I don’t know. Social class
seems much less permeable now that I’m older
than back when people still believed in revolution. 1973.
When protests filled the papers.
When the media booed as Littlefeather asked
for love and generosity with class as old
John Wayne weighed in six years before his death would make the papers.