POeT SHOT # 8 - Greenblatt on a Poem by Gloria Parker

POeT SHOT #8                                             Blog Post by Ray Greenblatt

THE BANK SIGN FLASHES 10 DEGREES     - by Gloria Parker

Then 8:40--then 9 degrees. Not that I need to be told--

I'm wearing the lone glove I found in my pocket, sitting
on the other hand to keep it warm-

I'm late for work, the radio's news is demoralizing as ever,
tiny ice pellets pepper my windshield and same light turns

red three times. I add these to my monologue, then make
a dangerous u-turn from the bumper-to-bumper mess

onto a side road which turns out to be just as bad--thick
with drivers who must have had the same idea.

A red fox steps out of the brush and trots along the swale
beside the cars with what looks like a kaiser roll in his mouth

and I picture him stepping out of a Saturday morning cartoon,
not a miserable Monday

where a kaiser roll is never a kaiser roll, but a sandwich-size
creature, locked in fox's jaws.

The school bus I'm stuck behind with its host of red lights stops
at every driveway. Bundled-up kids waddle from their houses.

It's kindergarten I'm late for--where for six hours in an overheated
room there'll be no time to build a case against the cold and brutal.

I'll take out and put back paints, toys, books--wipe noses and tears,
open lids from tight thermos bottles, sing songs to temper the din.

After rest time, they'll watch me make blue squares on a giant sheet
of white paper. I'll tell them a palatable version of the story.

Each child will have a square. One of them will draw Mrs. Fox
in a pink flowered apron, making her husband's favorite lunch--

peanut butter and jelly on a kaiser roll. She'll look all over--under
the table, in the stove and refrigerator, on top of the cupboards

but won't find his lunch box. He'll put on his periwinkle vest,
his hunter green hat with the speckled feather in the band

and in the last frame, Mr. Fox, in his red and orange coupe will
go off to work with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his teeth.

The ironic title of the poem seems to have little to do with the main theme. A working person--a teacher-- goes through the daily trials of life, even confronting the "savagery" of nature, i.e. a fox with its prey (in modern times the Kaiser tried to gobble up countries). Kindergarten is a "safe" place for innocent children. The humor grows as the fox, and life, is made acceptable by giving him a kaiser roll, jaunty clothes and car, and placing him in a cartoon.