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“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” –George Orwell, 1984
I was supposed to write this poem today during my creative writing class’s work day, but instead I read Divergent. I can’t help it–I am a sucker for teen dystopian fiction. When The Hunger Games came out, I bought sets of the trilogy and taught it to 9th graders, but now I can’t use them anymore, because all our students come in to school having read them already. They are formulaic, yes, almost dystopian novel tend to be, but are still so, so entertaining, and their appeal to teens makes them infinitely teachable. Even classics like Brave New World and 1984 go over well with adolescents, who want so much for the world to be different than it is, and who love the idea of struggle against totalitarian authority so very much. They love the idea of it, but they also tend to be very nuanced in their ideas of justice, equality, risk, courage, etc…and consensus about what an ideal world would look like rarely happens. It makes for good discussion.
I haven’t read a lot of the new wave of teen dystopian literature. Goodreads says there’s a lot more. I’ve checked in books for my students like Maze Runner, and Uglies, but I haven’t read them. The Giver, though, tops the my personal list.
There’s a lot to be said for Divergent. It’s got me page-turning. I all of a sudden recognize why my students always ask me why I’ve read it when we are doing weekly vocab. Erudite. Amity. Abnegation. Candor. Faction. Thank you, Ms. Roth.
So, I’ve decided that I need to hop on that train of fiction. If I ever have time to write more than poems, I’m going to write a teen dsytopian novel about a boarding school for at-risk teens where they wake up one day an all the adults are gone. Kind of a Lord of the Flies meets Panem kind of thing, with zombie wolves. Right? Right? That’s like, three pop-teen tropes in one.
So, in all likelihood I’m never getting around to that. I’m going to poem about it instead:
Teen Dystopian Novel #SentAway
Everything would’ve been fine, but they forgot the firewood.
On the first day, when the night staff had fled to run to their families, and the teachers had failed to show, the students all slept in, but manage to carry on like normal.
Once they realized the world had changed, they had to make out, at least the ones who had been planning on had to, and the ones who had been hoping pressed their luck.
By afternoon their chuckles were no longer carefree. After sunset, when they realized no one was coming, there were celebrations and panic attacks. Some of their palms sweat, and after some discussion amongst the oldest and least medicated, they broke into the nurse’s office.
Everything was labeled, in nice clean packages, but they had never worried about dosages at home, and some weren’t about to start. The wailing of the the cows led a younger boy to organize the farm crew, and they set about getting the work done, the milking and the mucking.
The least likely, the most sketchbook boy, volunteered to lead culinary crew, and thought, briefly, about when the generators would run out, about when they would have to pitch the food, and about the animals it would attract. He wondered about preservation, and about smoking pounds of sausages to last past the thaw.
There were teams of what were considered the halest, dispatched to the nearest towns, but they came back shaken, and silent.
Yes, everything would’ve been fine, but they forgot the firewood, and the generators had stopped running after a week. In the heat months, it hadn’t mattered. They’d slept outside, all curled in a heap.
Three young women and three young men had figured out how to make provisions last, by digging the root cellar, by erecting the smokehouse, and by training the axes, the throwers, to throw strong and straight and right for the necks of the deer. The berry pickers worked in shifts. For some months, it had seemed like just exactly what they had wanted all along–to be alone in the company of friends, and in full command of it all. Which was the dream, each wondered, now, or then?
And then the birth control ran out. And the first hunt came back looking wild, and haunted, and with tales of a wolf with no eyes. One night the first of them fell, walking back from the pit latrine that the girls dug when the septic tanks overflowed, fell with no evidence until another, cleaning her body for burial, noticed the paper cut tracings on the arm were leaking blood. Thin as paper, the slices bled from swirls on the body, and a meeting was called.
The time as come for weapons, they said. Anything you know. Preparations began. But they forgot the firewood,
and soon the leaves began to fall.
See, I would totally read that. Especially if there was some kind of romantic story line involved. Happy Monday, poem folk.