the compassionate electrician

I sit in a poetry class taught by a professor
with the face of a famous man.
he begins the lecture and asks for volunteers.

I volunteer.
the professor hands me a poem with a string threaded through it carefully.

on the page there is a face of a man with his lips split open.
the string runs through his lips cleverly so that
if I pull the string his mouth closes and opens, opens and closes.

under the face there is a poem and I am told that
to keep the man alive I must help him breathe.

by this point I am terrified, but I listen carefully to all the instructions.
the professor hands me a pair of scissors and tells me, "here is another poem."
he says, "cut out whatever you see fit from here and paste it on the first,

but don't let him stop breathing." the lecture proceeds and with my right hand
I pull the mouth shut and open, open and shut.

I listen to the whoosh of air that passes through the black and white lips.
meanwhile, my other hand gropes for the scissors and awkwardly
cuts out the beginnings of lines. phrases turn to stanzas. with my right hand

I pull the mouth open and shut, shut and open. by this point I might have missed
a few breaths, so the terror creeps in and I realize that the poem man was never alive

despite now being complete. then
I wake up.