The Microscopes

The Microscopes

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Heavy and expensive, hard and black
With bits of chrome, they looked
Like baby cannons, the real children of war, and I
Hated them for that, for what our teacher said
They could do, and then I hated them
For what they did when we gave up
Stealing looks at one another’s bodies
To press a left or right eye into the barrel and see
Our actual selves taken down to a cell
Then blown back up again, every atomic thing
About a piece of my coiled hair on one slide
Just as unimportant as anyone else’s
Growing in that science
Class where I learned what little difference
God saw if God saw me. It was the start of one fear,
A puny one not much worth mentioning,
Narrow as the pencil tucked behind my ear, lost
When I reached for it
To stab someone I secretly loved: a bigger boy
Who’d advance
Through those tight, locker-lined corridors shoving
Without saying
Excuse me, more an insult than a battle. No large loss.
Not at all. Nothing necessary to study
Or recall. No fighting in the hall
On the way to an American history exam
I almost passed. Redcoats.
Red blood cells. Red-bricked
Education I rode the bus to get. I can’t remember
The exact date or
Grade, but I know when I began ignoring slight alarms
That move others to charge or retreat. I’m a kind
Of camouflage. I never let on when scared
Of conflicts so old they seem to amount
To nothing really—dust particles left behind—
Like the viral geography of an occupied territory,
A region I imagine you imagine when you see
A white woman walking with a speck like me.

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