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