My imaginings have always been little houses of worry,

where I drift from room to room

observing the imaginary goings on

in an attempt to not only predict what might happen

should I not change, but garner some knowledge

as to how to behave in waking life.

So why wouldn’t I think they’ve always watched over me

like a caring friend.

Even when they’ve been unpleasant, I’ve never stopped

thinking of them as kind ones looking out,

and in this one I’m back in middle school again,

and heads are turning in my direction

as if I’d just farted in class and was standing there

frozen like a deer hypnotized by the headlights

of a metal sea monster.

A teacher stands before her little soldiers

like she is great war general commanding her troops

to leave their personals aside and think only of war,

it’s hard even to think of her having

a family so regimented is her personality.

It’s as if she’d been hypnotized herself by a program

that psychologically regressed her to infancy

before someone entered her college dorm room

and sat by her fetal body on the bed with new promises,

which makes it difficult to not feel bad for her.

Like an elderly man in a lawn chair with his left ball

slipping sap-like out of his trunks,

she’d rather look at me from behind a mask

and tell me how I’m not living up to her standards

as some lifeless attempt to save me from cruelty.

It’s like she’s not even human,

or under some sort of mind control that’s flatlined

her humanity.

Thankfully, the fantasy shifts though,

and I can see my grandmother kneeling in the sand

at the beach with my 6-year-old self,

and she’s laughing and holding a wobbly sand pail

in front of my face,

and there I am reaching out to take it thinking

this long, white-haired kindergarten teacher

is the best friend I ever had,

and this is the best moment of my life

and just think lobster and ice cream are coming later,

I’m in heaven.

It’s how I know I’m neither of these teachers,

not that robot one up there in the poem

treating my imaginary teenage self

like he’s one of her obedient subjects,

and not the overly unconditionally loving version

further down in it who’s wearing my grandmother

like a swimsuit.

But that I worry sometimes that I will be,

if at some point I stop relying on my imagination to

to teach me how to ask questions that really matter,

and start forgetting where I put me.

Author: Chris Russell

Chris Russell holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Concord, New Hampshire where he follows two paths: a calling as a poet, and an altruistic vocation as an education support professional.

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