The Learner 

Published in di-vêrsé-city Youth Anthology (Austin International Poetry Festival) - Spring 2017  

At first, it’s easy, he thinks
Only three long sticks
Just Korean, English, and Math. 
Not too much to handle
Still awake without a battle. 

Next there’s a newcomer
Adding another black stick
Chinese letters are swimming in his eyes. 
Now he’s told his eyes look sunken
But it’s fine, for he can still function. 

Then comes Music
Drawing another stick with a joyful tune
His pencil-ridden fingers droop over the keys. 
He smiles and thinks of destroying the piano one day
But he can’t; his sister would look at him in dismay. 

Now the finishing blow
Coloring the sixth stick with inky shades of grey
He stands up with a groan; his legs numb from sitting for so long. 
He looks at his sketchbook, imagining building a ten-foot chainsaw
But he remembers that he'd be grounded; it is against the national law. 

Perhaps it was the B that he got in Biology
Or the scolding he got from his parents because of it
He kicks the piano in the living room and smashes the keys with a hammer. 
He sees red for a moment, hearing the satisfying snaps of the strings
He feels a high similar to that of men flailing punches in boxing rings. 

His mother’s screaming goes in one ear and out the other
He couldn’t care less about perfect GPAs, SAT scores, or anything else
All he knows is that he is calm, calm as the azure waves of the sea
He smiles, earning another round of ear-splitting shrieks from his mother
Promising to himself that one day, he’ll design a world of suffering of no other.