top of page

Pop Quiz

Some bow their heads and wait for their pens to move.

A ground cloud, like a fog, or an unexpected tide, pulls

them away. Through the haze, the quiet one half-raises her

hand, asks if – after today – there will be other chances.

Today’s exam, I want to tell her, is not today’s exam.

It is Everyman’s call, nothing in stone; a practice run

at squaring accounts; at facing what we did not plan;

at being alone; a reference to the clock on our wall,

whose hands advance with us or without us. I wait for

them in the dim, rapt hush. A curtain rises. Scenes – like

a showreel – flicker and flash: a hand untangling from a lover’s

grasp; a slap for a ranting three-year old; a prayer clasp. As if

to find answers, some raise their heads, gaze at a life scene

outside: A yellow-breasted blackbird on a branch, savoring

a grub in its beak. Other chances. Such a sweet ring.

Winter’s buried bulbs; bloom in the next growing season.


Copyright © 2023  M. B. McLatchey. All rights reserved.

Published in Sky Island Journal, Issue #27, Winter 2024. 

From the editors: [This poem] is vulnerable, tense, powerful, and so incredibly accurate; it transports and challenges us in ways that poems seldom do. This piece—like so many of our favorite M.B. pieces—is a meditation on the presence of absence and the absence of presence, and it bears fruit in such personal, beautiful, and unexpected ways. Like all great art, “Pop Quiz” sticks its landing and is a gift that keeps on giving; we discover more about it, and ourselves, with every reading.

bottom of page