The teacher walks into class empty
handed—someone has stolen her
poetry textbook. Who would steal
poetry? a student who works
as a security guard asks. His
classmates snicker to concur,
yea. She seizes the pedagogical
moment, opens the question
to discussion. Perhaps someone
who is starving, whispers a reed-
thin student who waits tables
at a nude bar, someone who
needs bread, meat, or a sugar
rush. A woman who is desperate
steals, pipes in the housewife
whose husband has left her.
She might need cash, attention,
the kind of meaning only
a desperate act will reveal.
A man who is used to stealing,
says the former gang member,
who has itchy fingers, a habit
of taking, but the usual stereos,
cars, jewelry have lost their appeal.
Perhaps he's realized he's not
as materialistic as he thought
he was, says the woman who
shops at Saks and Bloomingdale's.
This thief wants to improve himself,
enrich his life, a religious student
adds, acquire a few metaphors,
add paradox, a little form and
complexity to the daily routine.
They nod. This thief is not above
an apt turn of phrase, an ambiguous
line break. Perhaps he's a modern
day Robin Hood—stealing poetry
from the rich, giving it to the poor.
The students open their books
and share their poems with her.
Elisa reads "Stealing Poetry":
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Elisa confesses: "Years ago in my college creative writing class, I mentioned someone had stolen my book. A couple of the dozen students—a varied group in age, profession, writing ability—found that hilarious, which got me thinking about them, why people steal, and what if a thief did steal for the poetry?"