Michael Milburn


A kid carved a swastika 
on the boys’ room wall,
maybe a kid I taught 
or one I teach now—
the culprit’s still at large.

It might have been meaningless,
as a child screams, “I hate you,”
and hopes not to be held to that. 

It might have felt funny,
the way some people
mask bigotry as wit.

Now we all walk the halls
guessing at the perpetrator,
like an Agatha Christie mystery
minus monocles and mink stoles.

I can’t see a student of mine doing it.               
What Bush said of Putin
I think of them every day—
that I have looked in their eyes
and sensed their souls,

which goes to motive,
as in how many of us
harbor black hearts of hatred
versus being 
dumb enough 
or vain enough
to follow along?

Michael Milburn teaches English in New Haven, CT. His poems have appeared recently in Slant, Descant, Poetry Quarterly, and previously in MockingHeart Review.