Passive Voice

by Laura Da’

Read by Emma Rye

I use a trick to teach students
how to avoid passive voice.

Circle the verbs.
Imagine inserting “by zombies”
after each one.

Have the words been claimed
by the flesh-hungry undead?
If so, passive voice.

I wonder if these
sixth graders will recollect,
on summer vacation,
as they stretch their legs
on the way home
from Yellowstone or Yosemite
and the byway’s historical marker
beckons them to the
site of an Indian village—

Where troublewasbrewing.
Where, afterfurtherhostilities,thearmywasdirectedtoenter.
Where thevillagewasrazedaftertheskirmishoccurred.
Where mostwerewomenandchildren.

Riveted bramble of passive verbs
etched in wood—
stripped hands
breaking up from the dry ground
to pinch the meat
of their young red tongues.

 

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