I smoked a jay and walked to the park a week or two ago, and while I’ve been making it a habit to write/journal while I’m there, this was the first time I decided use that time for writing poetry. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve decided to write any poetry since middle school…I think.
Anyway, here it is.
I wonder when the first time was I said the words, but…
I was six when the teacher called my name.
“Come to the board,” she said, “and show us how to write a ‘3’.”
But when I grabbed the chalk, I could feel their eyes on me,
and once I sat it down, I could feel the radiating wrongness of the thing I’d made.
“Were you not paying attention at all?” she groaned. “I just showed you how!”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I forgot.”
I don’t know how they always knew when I had a test, but they did.
And “test” meant hour collapsing into endless hour:
a droning sea of bottomless time.
I hated studying–it felt like a prison sentence.
Entire chapters, ones we’d already read in class over the course of a week,
were read to me in a single night.
By my warden, who somehow always knew.
Tears streaming, I’d beg for reprieve.
But none was ever granted.
Not til my knowledge seemed sufficient.
Were I asked the answer to a question,
I’d flawlessly execute the requested protocol.
But tests are boring, much less interesting than the world in my own head.
And when they’d ask to see, and found I’d missed one,
and saw a value just under a full buck scrawled at the top corner–
I again felt the radiation.
The burn of angry disappointment.
“You are so much smarter than this,” fell the prosecution’s words.
“But you are careless, and you make careless mistakes.
Were you not paying attention at all?
We just read this last night!”
“I’m sorry,” said the tears.
“I forgot,” said the words.
I remember, in those days, I cried an awful lot.
I remember, at 10, I sobbed so loudly and wildly
that I was told to leave the classroom.
To sit in the hall.
We’d just been handed back tests.
And mine said “90.”
I remember the years of crying, and the many more of drought.
I remember begging, pleading the alleged Almighty.
Praying for the tears to come.
But they were gone.
I remember crying
but as for the reason I stopped
I’m sad to say
“You’re too young to be doing that,” came the voice in the chair.
I’d just walked into the room, from clear across the house.
And when he saw me standing there,
“What are you doing?”
The voice sounded suspicious.
Or was it concerned?
“You’re too young to be doing that,” he said.
And the subject was dropped.
But it was a dialogue oft-repeated.
“Why don’t you take out the trash?!”
The voice was an angry one.
A voice heard only by criminals.
“I told you to take it out an hour ago!”
“I’m sorry!” I groveled.
came the hemlock words.
“You were just being lazy.”
“Why, why, why?” they asked.
“I-I-I-” I stammered.
You chose not to do it.
You chose to ignore me.
You chose to do it the wrong way, to spite me.
is not an excuse.
Don’t make excuses.”
And so I did.
I stopped saying
Not all at once.
It’s not the sort of thing you can change overnight.
But slowly, eventually,
with a long timer, and a low heat.
And no longer did I forget,
for forgetting was merely the excuse of
But occasionally, perhaps even frequently, I’d feel this little
A spasm, even,
of what seemed to be a sort of phantom limb.
But when I felt it, I didn’t make excuses.
I knew what I was.
A lazy daydreamer.
A flawed character.
I didn’t even care enough to try to be a better person.
But in my twilight hours–I knew.
I never could seem to remember.
But now I’m an adult,
or at least, that’s what they tell me.
I wish I could remember more,
but I think something’s wrong.
I know they have to be there.
But when I close my eyes,
reach out my hand,
fumble in the dark.
All I find
waiting for me
are the times