Portrait of the writer in grade school

Kicking each other’s legs in line, surreptitiously. Morning flag
ceremony. Announcements via megaphone or speaking trumpet.

No running water in the latrines, and yet the teachers said
to use a sheet of writing paper as toilet paper. Slapping

two erasers against each other to shake the chalk dust loose.
Watching the white trail sift over the third floor railing.

Intonation practice: Good mor-ning miss! Grammar trees
and sentence parsing. Daily multiplication drills. Mission

Sunday and First Friday mass. Friday afternoons in the social hall,
watching old Steamboat Willie cartoons and a full length movie:

Zorro. Sister Carmen writing out the rules for softball
on the board in perfect cursive. Reading and memorizing, then

taking a quiz. Nail inspections. Nape inspections. Underwear
inspections. Kneeling on dry beans in the corner as punishment.

Walking through basement hallways for lessons in the music
room. Rumors of headless ghosts guarding the bell-pull.

On X-ray day, public health vans parked in the field. Rumor:
drinking a whole glass of milk made for a clear scan. How

heat smells, emanating from six hundred bodies spilling
into the yard. Joy of the loud four-thirty bell.


In response to Via Negativa: Portrait of the writer as a young man.

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