Poetry from Candice Kelsey

A layout of open books.

Photo: Patrick Tomasso

Reading Camp

at Santa Monica College

I’m sorry we made you go
no one teaching you
and your friends
camp songs
no chipped red picnic table
half in the shade
half in giggles
the only woodland creatures
balloon-like illustrations
in oversized books
no counselor weaving lanyards
only Teacher Chris —
whose listening game
called for Squirrels!
expecting quiet and cupped hands
atop your heads
like fat little tree-dwellers
in search of nuts
because good campers know when to listen
when to pay attention
as did I
one morning
before hiking up the stairs
to our phonetic campsite:
bird-like I looked
through the window
of Teacher Chris’ Honda
ash tray cornucopia of cascading
cigarette butts
an urban acorn trail
left behind
from his rushed sunrise bugle call
I knew then
you were not the only one
who hated Reading Camp.

.

.

Candice Kelsey‘s work has appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, and North Dakota Quarterly. She published a successful trade paperback with Da Capo Press, was a finalist for Poetry Quarterly‘s Rebecca Lard Award, and recently was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. An educator of 20 years’ standing with her M.A. in literature from LMU, she lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children.

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