Passing Notes ~ Heather Kirn Lanier

While we folded breaking news in light

blue ink—Anita likes Matt! Do you? Yes


or no?—Misses Trouser-Pants of home-ec told

in her reedy, quaking voice that Nylon Won


The War!, and we snapped the instant laugh

of preteens, but I privately longed for more. 


Nylons ran, tore—how could fabric win

and which war?  I pictured black, cartoonish bombs


sparking at the wick, fitted into pantyhose

like undigested rodents in the tracheas


of snakes.  It’s true, she cried but didn’t detail

the famine of Japanese silk,


the ladies’ legs gone bare for nylon tents,

flak vests, tires and shoe-stitching resistant


to rotting.  Her eight kitchen stations

were otherworldly old stages for us


to play a people who measured every ounce

of flour, counted every spoon.  The serving knife,


the spatula, the rolling pin and sifter

each laid over a labeled outline


of itself.  Our war was Desert Storm.  It cost

us little more than TV seldom inter-


rupted (its name, revised from yielding Shield!,

would land onscreen to preface khaki ground


combatants) so we said in so many years           

we could be drafted, but the yellow-ribbon


stickers we’d adhered to our binders

couldn’t teach the cost of things.  Their faux-


serrated ends conveyed a trite note—come home,

soldiers—that no one passed, and this marked


the beginning of it: the vaguest sense

that the carpeting and couch cushions of a given


living room were too plush, that the skies

above our strip malls were too cloud-splotched


to know what fell on other countries’ schools,

that we needed too little to make pain


much matter, though we sung into our fists

the hit of a bald Irish woman who’d ripped


the pope’s picture: I can eat my dinner

in a fancy restaurant, but nothing,


I said nothing can take away these blues.

Which is why, looking back, I loved her—


Misses Trouser-Pants.  Someone rolled the dough,

another memorized the map of a table setting,


and I brewed the tea for my eighth-grade family

of four.  One bag, two cups! she commanded


and I squeezed every last bit of orange pekoe,

recouped for an era of need only known


to teacher.  Oh pie-from-scratch, nothing compares

to you.  The tea-cups replied with a chink


Around us, flowers on the wallpaper descended

like little soldiers with polymer parachutes,


floating to earth in safety.  Then we laid

each item in its outline again. 


Her bleached-raw finger tapped air above

the tools, her thin lips murmuring the count.


She nodded.  We passed.  We’d preserved each thing. 

The tea had tasted like blah and I’d loved it.