The Burning Question

The teacher placed the stack of papers on the table and addressed the class. 
“Thank you for your essays. Are there any final burning questions?”

Most deliberately avoided her gaze, but one girl raised her hand, initiating a chorus of groans.

“Yes?

“Why do you always wear black?”

Insolent laughter erupted around the classroom.

The teacher nodded. “Fair question. It’s camouflage for my sense of humour— or my soul. You choose.”

She shrugged, and the collected papers behind her burst into flames then powdered into ashes.

She smiled at their silence. “Perhaps you’ll all be more respectful from now on!”

Classy Humour.

The teacher stood at the front of the room, textbook in hand, as the students settled down to business. 

“Please open your text book to page four hundred and four, and… yes, James?”

The teacher looked with anticipation at the young man sitting in the second row, hand raised and an awkward smile on his face. 

“That page cannot he found.” 

His classmates looked confusedly at James, and then at the specified page in their own books.

The teacher frowned. “Are you sure? There must be some kind of mistake.”

James’ smile became a triumphant grin. “It’s an error 404.”

***

Credit for this story must be given to my student, James, who actually did this in one of his classes, and gave me permission to write it as a drabble.

What’s Cooking?

A powerful new aroma rose drew demons from near and far to the enormous kitchen. 

“I smell sea salt,” moaned Festus as he wiped his drool on his sleeve.

“Do you really? I smell Vegemite!” exclaimed Provokus.

“You’re both wrong. It’s meat pies! That smell of melting, bubbling flesh is unmistakeable.” Cocky and confident, Argumentus sneered at the obvious errors of the others.

“Damn, I wanted some January 26 lamingtons, or a pavlova.” Minimus, the smallest of them all, who also had the sweetest tooth, looked very disappointed.

“Hey boss, what’s cooking?”  Festus asked.

Satan snickered as he answered: “Australia.”

Copyright 2019 by Joanne Van Leerdam

Final Notice.

Listen,
Now that you’ve made it clear
That I don’t matter to you,
I need you to return my things:

The time you were always asking for,
Countless borrowed hands,
The respect you mistook for deference,
The love you took for granted,
My confidence,
My dignity,
And everything else you took
When I wasn’t looking.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Mind Blown

“I still don’t know what to do.” Greg’s words hung in the air, the atmosphere pregnant with frustration as his classmates’ faces mirrored the teacher’s umbrage.

The teacher glared, deliberately silent as heat flushed, dark red, up his neck and across his face. His mouth opened, but no words came. The sound of his pulse reverberated around the room, growing louder and faster as he fought for control.

The explosion, accompanied only by a vague squelch, spewed bloodied flesh and grey matter across the room. A disembodied eyeball on the floor continued to glare at Greg.

“Whoa!” he gasped. “Mind blown!”

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Full.

“I’m full of good ideas,” I told him,
“Full of something,” he promptly said,
And he was right: there’s always more
Than just bright ideas in my head.

Vivid memories stream on a cinema screen,
To a soundtrack of favourite songs,
A maple tree full of autumn leaves
So my heart can visit where it belongs.
There’s a flowing river of storylines
And a deep well of imagery,
A box full of timely lessons, hard learned,
And useful facts from world history.
The walls are lined with shelves of books
And pictures of beloved faces,
There’s a graveyard to visit with those who have passed
And doorways to favourite places.

And right at the back, where no-one can see,
In the darkest part of my brain,
There’s a very deep hole where I throw away
Things I don’t want to think of again.

©2018 Joanne Van Leerdam

Holding My Tongue.

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Someone told me this morning
That I should hold my tongue,
So I’ve taken heed of the warning
Using my forefinger and thumb.
It’s really quite uncomfortable
And swallowing is tricky,
My hand is covered in dribble
And it’s getting kind of sticky.
It’s difficult to talk much
So I have to grunt a lot,
In all my life, I’ve not seen such
Dirty looks as those I’ve got.
I’m sure it wasn’t good advice,
And suspect I’ve been misled:
I wonder if it would suffice
If I just shut up instead.

©2017 Joanne Van Leerdam

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Still Here.

Before you read this poem, there is something I would like you to know.

This poem is absolutely, 100% true. It is personal, it is painfully honest, and it tells of my own experience, not anyone else’s.  And you may find it quite confronting.

Despite its darkness, it is written to be positive, not negative. 

It was not written to win sympathy or make anyone feel guilt: it was written so that people might understand what’s in my head, and what I’ve been feeling, and why I’ve made the choices I have.

To answer your concerns: I have chosen to stay here and to defy all impulses that tempt me otherwise. I don’t always feel okay, I’m not always okay, but I will be okay. 

For anyone in a similar position: hold on. Stay here. You matter more than you know. 

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STILL HERE.

For a moment-
One fleeting, isolated point in time-
Or maybe two,
I thought about it.

I had the means.
God knows, I had motive.
But I couldn’t do it to you.

I know you would have understood.
But I know, too, how you would have mourned.
The grief.
The anger.
The questions.
I would have destroyed much more than myself.

So I resisted,
Summoning strength I didn’t have,
Holding on desperately
To everything that matters-
To everything I know that I love-
Even when I couldn’t feel it anymore.

I am thankful to still be here,
Despite my fragile state of mind,
For I know too well what it is like
To be one of the left behind.

©2017 Joanne Van Leerdam

This poem and fifty others are published in a collection: titled ‘The Passing Of The Night’

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