An Abecedarian for Election Days (Past, Present, and Future)
A pigeon watches from the elementary school window’s ledge as I enter the
Building (the same one in which I learned my ABCs and the birds and the
Bees (to varying degrees). Its corridors adorned with men in red.
Boots & booths freshly dusted.
Cups of Hawaiian Punch. Tuna and celery on toast. “Homemade,” a woman boasts.
Cookies (oatmeal and chocolate chip) rest uneaten on folding tables.
“Care for a clear ticket, it’s already marked,” another asks. I inhale, then
Decline. Rude or crude, I don’t know. I hesitate. Reluctant to speak my mind.
Duty calls. Under-trained folk overserve. Average poll workers earn $50 a day, I read.
Dandelions (paper, oversized) in plastic vases (undersized) offer an unusual display.
Dates dance in my head. 2016. 2020. 2022. I exhale, then smile. Lips freshly lined.
Estee Lauder had a sale on gloss. I’m elated to be voting in person (lips shellacked).
First time in three years. Pleased as punch to tango in real-time. No matter the
Fake smiles, artificial punches, and electioneering fears.
Get out the vote, I’ve said. Go. Go. Go.
How could I not be giddy. The day both release and reward.
Home-made record makers. Also, heart breakers.
Hot off (and of) the presses. Privilege blends with power.
I squint. Glasses tinted. Cautious and careful.
Irritating waits (and waists) measured in inches.
Intimidators and impersonators pronounced.
Innocence sautéed of losses and ballots. Both tossed.
I imagine the men drinking mimosas. Some tangled. Others wrangled.
Just as soon as (or soon after) I reach the front of the line.
Kindred folk. Knowledgeable about most (tenders and tender topics). Gossip in primetime.
Lollipops (cherry) and issues (choice, crime, tracked dimes) on the
Menu. Alongside democracy, voice, and toast (the diner next door serves avocado).
Manicured lawns on edge. Perimeters and fences kiss well-primed garden beds
Manilla folders and masks (red, white, and blue) replace
Mary Janes (black patent) and macaroons (vanilla custard).
No complementary jellybeans (only bean counters) or citrus-flavored star bursts (only broods in Neon ties stamped of asymmetrical polka dots and pin-striped shirts).
Plant ladies smile from pots stuffed of soil and cinnamon spice.
Plotted and sodded. Aromas welcome while thumbs twiddle.
Phones and phoniness a perennial vice. Politicians on all corners. Quiet please, a mother begs of her precocious (and unusually vocal) child.
Regulars and irregulars by the frayed denim and nylon jogger suburban slice.
Residents of swing states inspire and conspire. Run-offs rattle. All signs of a close race.
Secret surveillance cameras at ballot box locations. Nixon-era antics traded for trumpets.
Stale gingerbread. Staler air. Whispers of stolen elections dangle and taunt with red hair.
Smokestacks puff (it’s unusually cold). No Smoking Allowed signs persist. A clash of
Taunting titans. Pecking pigeons. Unbalanced alphabets. A rash with a persistent itch.
Tire swings made of rubber dangle from a nearby pair of trees. All compass dials spin.
Underutilized volunteers (how many is too many, I wonder). It’s the
Votes that matter. Voices and vices. Vocals and locals. Retro cliches on fire (and file). Who. What. Where. When. Why. I ask. Ballot in hand. Acutely aware of the elementary task.
Where I once scuffed knees. Fled from boys with dirty mouths and girls with mean stares.
When I hid in bathroom stalls with initials on interiors walls. And deciphered (long ago)
X- and Y- axis and toilet paper (two and three-ply). Now (time flies, fabrics fade)
X- and Y-axis stripes cross on far-side chalkboards and carpet squares. Over here, one calls. You, I say. Blunt and bold. A neighbor (familiar flavor) I hadn’t seen since before COVID. Yes, she replies then waves. Her lips also loaded. The place busy. Snorts and snuffles. Akin to a
Zoo. Zombies and zealots conspire. Animals (zealous and overheated) comply. A
Zebra plant (freshly coiffured) poised at her side. A handful of baby carrots in a sealed
Ziploc. Calories and conspiracies at bay. I whistle and walk her way. Feed my ballot and
Zip my jacket. Bid an awkward adieu to scanners, pigeons, and neighbors. Retreat. My way.
It’s as Easy as the ABCs
/ Ready. Set. Vote.
1. Name a treasured right that begins with each of the following letters:
2. Identify an issue that begins with each of the following letters:
3. Which is more complicated? The ABCs or the Birds and the Bees.
4. The importance of voting should be taught in schools. True or False
5. Voting should be conducted in schools. True or False.
6. There’s nothing cuter that a small child waving from a yellow school bus. True or False.
7. There’s nothing scarier than the prospect of a large red wave. True or False.
8. Ballot names should be alphabetized. True or False.
9. Ballot propositions should be randomized. True or False.
10. Voting issues can be prioritized. True or False.
11. Voting locations can be criticized. True or False.
12. Respond to the following prompt: “While I fail to understand why schools are still used for voting, I can't help but reflect on time spent with modeling clay and questionable role models, as well as the ABCs (birds and bees). All in the course of a most unusual (now past) election day.”
13. Compare and contrast run-offs with run-ins.
14. Compare and contrast absentee ballots with absentee ballads.
15. Which are easier to quantify? The value of an absentee ballot or the value of a masterpiece painting?
A Collection of Election-Themed Haiku
/ Gathered like Fall Leaves
a fall debrief (also relief)
woman in blue dress
knits an American flag
as skies weep
souls in rubber soles
press on “I Voted” stickers
rain paints sidewalk h(bl)ue
midterm results pile
like leaves of oak, birch, and elm
autumn breaths release
no red wave
only red leaves
votes settle like leaves
in soft November winds
no tidal waves
vote: both noun and verb
building blocks in cotton socks
a ___ canvas
Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Her most recent collection, 14 (Plus) Reasons Why (free lines press) is now available. She recommends Philly ASAP.