Geography lesson

Rank and overripe smell in the air after rain,
maybe from an open sewer. I think of where

we went to elementary school, how we learned
to drink little if not at all from Tupperware

tumblers with water from home or sodas bought
from the school canteen, poured into plastic

bags: a straw stuck into the open end
before the top was pulled close

with a rubber band. I learned the hard
way after wetting myself on the first day

and suffering the embarrassment of having
the office call my mother, who brought a change

of underwear and clothes. If we needed to go
at all, we learned to hold our breath

as we scanned the open stalls on the ground
floor or in the annex at the edge of the yard,

for the least offensive latrine. There was no
running water— only metal drums just outside,

open to the copious rain. Something was always
getting stuck or overflowing. No wonder,

since even the teachers said: You can rip
a sheet out of your writing pad to use

as toilet paper. Sometimes the nuns
also had small stacks of colorful paper,

ads from old magazine pages: the kind
where you might glimpse pieces torn

from a brilliant world— quaint villages
along the Rhine, ramparts on the hills;

for seven nights and eight days, a cruise
on a boat from which to view the setting

sun and rising moon. 2799+ per person,
land tours and gratuities not included.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Proving the rule.

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