Two-and-a-Half Knocks

by Michael Beadle

The students in 9B English refuse to read
any further, not until we clear this fallen tree
from the road. I tell them it’s like an old oak
where birds suddenly take the place of leaves.
But they grow skeptical, this jury
I have to convince using splinters
from a haunted house. It’s the half
knock they can’t quite shake loose—
a fraction of action in the midst of fiction.
Did the man at the door give up knocking
or did the door open in mid-knock?
The author never says, so the reader has to
invent a door that accepts half knocks.
Everything after that becomes a series of doubts,
and two-and-a-half words scribble their way
into a secret note as the bell rings.

Michael Beadle is a poet, teaching artist, magazine editor and freelance writer living in Canton, North Carolina. His poems have been published in various anthologies and journals such as Kakalak, The New Southerner, and Sow's Ear. He is the author of two poetry collections and a newly released poetry CD, "Kaboom."

About Two-and-a-Half Knocks—It's always interesting to see how students (both adults and young people) approach stories and poems. Sometimes we are trained to think so literally that it's hard to use our imaginations. Writers ask their readers to make a leap of faith, to believe in the magic of words, but there's also this sense of doubt and skepticism we have in trying to explain things and find empirical evidence. With this poem, I wanted to invent a scenario where a teacher tries to convince his students to believe in something strange and to make that leap of faith as the magic of language casts its spell. Who knows? By the end of the poem, perhaps the reader begins to imagine a house in the middle of the woods where someone knocks at the door two and a half times…