Brand new windows
in a brand new school offer the antidote
to an old boredom – a new 
snowscape to contemplate, teachers’ 
cars slowly softened with white, a hill
leading up to the newest development
of self-consciously large houses.  Or freedom –

the modest freedom of walking away
to be quietly myself
away from the girls
with their daily check-in questions: 
how high my bangs?  how fat my thighs?
and the eyes of the boys always watching
(between surreptitious peeks to see
that their low baggy pants still hang exactly
two inches below the tops of their boxers).

I am twelve, and my hair almost touches my waistline.
(I reach behind my back to check again) and 
in a few minutes, after my teacher asks
for a few strong boys to help her
carry boxes out to her car and after
I roll my eyes in disgust and after Jenni
or Kristi or Kelli giggles as she folds yet
another intricately secret note (decorated 
with butterflies and dotting her i’s with hearts) –

after all this and a few more worksheets,
a few more taps of my pencil
on my brand new desk, a few more
painful minutes under the injustice
of the school-issued clocks with such slow
tocks and, every so often, a jeering backward tick,
after a few more heavy sighs, I will write

my first poem.
It will be terrible:
heavy handed, overly dramatic, painfully precocious,
and terribly important.
It will not change the world, or even my world
view, exactly, but
on Friday, when Phil is winning the weekly theme
competition again and Mrs. Miller is smiling
as she puts a big gold star on his paper and
she hangs it on the board, to fight
the feelings of unfairness inside 
(my theme was really well done!
About my dog, detailed, vivid, heartfelt, 
not based on shallow stereotypes and seventh
grade cruelties – but the class
votes for cheap shots every week)
and to keep myself from screaming,
I will tell myself that I wrote
a poem, and whisper the words under my breath,
a talisman.

20 November 2002