The Circle Game

( After Margaret Atwood )


A ringing recess bell—
a door spilling children
onto the playground
as ants fleeing a colony

Each pair of feet
contradict the direction
of the former set
until they encase monkey bars

Most are carefree, but
not all feel the song;
the moving of joy
as blood and freedom's
marrow hardening their bones

Loners, outcasts
introverts, their faces
hollow wells of fear
cold and deep spaces
beneath surfaced stone

Bullies congregate—
move in for the kill
simply for the joy of it;
their lookout distracting
the teacher; they begin
pecking as a committee
of vultures—roosting
in high and mighty branches
just out of earshot


My father once told me
( when encountering persistent
negativity from a small faction
of individuals )

that continual resistance
could make one physically
and spiritually ill—
such was the force
of constant confrontation
and challenging
beyond reason
bordering on abusive action

He never advocated giving up
though, or walking away—
only that I understood
a force beyond the physical
world, hellbent on pushing forward
despite any obstacle

Oftentimes it moves
with such extreme speed
and reckless violence
that resistance
is the very thing
preventing its downfall

When faced with such a force
stop resisting, bend
as a reed, allowing
it to move over you instead


The teacher has wizened up
spotting the commotion
in the corner
a wake of vultures
ruthless in their feeding

She disperses them
with a swoop
of her hand, unearthing
the ruffled prey;
its tousled hair
and dirty face blank

What remains
is no worse for the wear
having refused to run
but stand their ground

Some children whisper
point and laugh to themselves
before skipping off to play
like nothing ever happened

Others show compassion
their eyes pools of sorrow
as though having firsthand
knowledge of the language


This is what my father meant
by, Bend like a reed
but stand your ground

Observe the extreme speed
and recklessness of it all
crash headfirst into a wall
( only to pick up
its damaged-self
to stomp back home
but not before
blaming everyone else )

While you maintain
your peace, health
and continued growth

You see, this is how you survive
in a world with those
who'd do you harm

You don't take them down—
you stand your ground
bend like a reed
during the tempest they toss
allowing them to pass

Then witness their downfall
via over-confidence


This is a patterned cycle
of the world
until we realize
the illusion of separateness
and that the only people
we truly hurt
by hurting others
is no one
but ourselves
Author's Note
Based very loosely on Atwood's The Circle Game. This went off in its own direction, and I let it.
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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