States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'The Poetry Exam' by John Foulcher

The Poetry Exam

The hall begins to fill. The students sit.
She sets her papers neatly on the desk
and rolls the lines around her mouth, flits
from word to word, moves her lips. The rest

is left to memory. The tests are stacked
for passing out on perfect, icy lines
of tables set in single file, tables packed
away when half-right answers whine

and plead for one mark more. She’s worked
for this. She knows the poems like friends,
she’s been to bed with them, she’s heard
their true confessions, knows their ends.

The earth moves. She turns the paper, reads it all.
She tears it into tiny bits. She leaves the hall.

John Foulcher