In 1996, the Academy of American Poets designated April as National Poetry Month so while I’m most definitely not a poet, I thought I’d challenge myself to contribute something here. This free-form verse was inspired by a memory from Amherst Junior High School, an ugly period of my adolescence. Hope I did it justice.
We called her Garbled Messages,
Because, she spoke in fetal words,
Quivering, breathe-y, spitty words,
If you stood too close, you got sprayed in the face,
We never got that close or paid her much attention,
But the classroom silenced,
Shook up like a soda bottle ready to foam and cackle,
Whenever it was her turn to speak.
While we became sly masters of witticism,
The put-down: Pass the ball, ass-face,
Quit being such a Gaylord,
Don’t stick out your tongue unless you’re gonna use it,
And the turns of phrase: Twat did you say?
I cunt hear you. I have an ear infuck-tion. I need some penis-cillin.
We illuminated subtexts everywhere,
Since the subtext of everything was always sex.
I never looked at Garbled Messages,
Too much, though I wondered,
Was she retarded? The greatest shame of Junior High,
She seemed the same as other girls,
Pretty even, though she wore a lot of make-up,
And dressed in ironed blouses and wool skirts,
Like her mom wanted her to bypass junior, senior high completely,
And go out into the world as a Secretary.
Still, we called her Tard and Dufus and Bocey,
At least behind her back,
Bocey, I later learned, derived from,
Board Of Cooperative Educational Services,
The place where all the Special Ed. kids went after lunch,
In the bus known popularly as the Retard Wagon,
I wish I could say that I never used those words,
But I did, so this is my confession.