Neat, Crisp Edges: a poem

Neat, Crisp Edges

It starts with two paper people
who fall in love and move into a crisply
folded origami house, to make
lots of paper sons and daughters.
And it ends when the family
discovers there is more to life
than cutting along perforated edges.
But paper families never reach this ending.

Here in this paper town,
they teach the children
to place capability above personality,
build up résumés with stuffy sounding verbs:
Tina K pilots and Tina T petitions
while Tina from Palmdale
prides herself on her sixteen
published poems (soon to be seventeen).

They don’t see seventeen-year-old Demi
who is impregnated,
not by a boy
but by the thought of dropping out
or dropping off the third floor
of the biology building
because, for her,
practice does not make perfect,
nor does persistence help her in school.
But no point in pity: with a name
like Demi, her future was set up
for a semi-fulfilling career –
not even the palm-reader’s shop,
between Rose and Pennsylvania
with the purple-paneled walls and neon stars
can promise her prosperity.
She would never make the cut.

Not in provincial La Crescenta,
where every other building
on Foothill Blvd is a private academy,
prepping first graders for second grade,
and sophomores for standardized tests.
Preparation will lead to a successful first try.
Second chances are for the inadequate.
But after graduation,
many will soon discover
no amount of preparatory schooling
could have equipped them for growing up,
living by themselves for the first time,
studying in a foreign country, or
finding the right words to say
when their friends experience
heartbreak, depression, or death
in the family.

But still, some will continue to fear
the instability of the real world,
always shying away from error.
Out of that predisposed dread of failing,
they will return back to the familiar,
back to provincial La Crescenta,
where the paper town will reassure them
that life will be just fine,
should they fold neat corners,
cutting exactly along
the perforated edges,
making no mistakes.

 

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