Grace Under Pressure by Susie Gharib

The first time I became familiar with such a concept
I was teaching For Whom the Bell Tolls to undergrads.
The idea appealed to my sense of decorum,
so I decided to adopt such a challenging stance,
yet it came to me naturally
as I was attuned to the stoical way of life
and one manifestation was during the never-ending Syrian war.

Four rockets fell not far where I stood,
lecturing on Owen’s “Anthem for Doomed Youth.”
When the first one rocked the classroom,
I calmly pacified my startled audience,
whose eyes bespoke their shattered thoughts,
whose hands faltered on their scribbled notes.

The second rocket sounded nearer
and agitation began to infect my flock.
I suggested we could halt the lecture
and they were totally free to go,
but where to?
No one stirred or moved at all.

The third one deafened our ears,
so with a stretched hand I uttered the words:
Peace be upon us all.

The fourth rocket was rather fierce.
I felt as if a part of me was torn.
It was still far from where I declared
the remainder of the lecture was to be postponed,
a sense of bereavement possessing my soul.

At night, I received a phone call,
intimating that one of our post-graduates was gone.
She was at the university gate,
having come to certify her newly-attained diploma.

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