HIGH SCHOOL YEARBOOK REMINISCING
And now the trophy for the graduate
most likely to be killed in a fiery
collision: I’m awarded the nickel-
plated extinguisher, my name etched
on the linchpin. Lucky me, I’m also
pegged as the one most apt to lose a hand
to snakebite. For this I’m handed a snake,
highly venomous. Some people, mainly
those who enjoy lettuce, might call these their
salad days. I call them a TV show
hastily vetoed for lack of wit,
vivid characters, or coherence. Then
again, I marched uncomplaining through near-
fatal locker room hijinks, smoke rolling
off home ec soufflés, doorless bathroom stalls
publicizing my most private functions,
much as the girls soldiered on with only
coin-op tampon machines to attend them.
The guidance counselors arrived at our
keggers already slurring. Our physics
teacher surrendered years ago and was
now merely screening reel-to-reels all day,
shell-shocked projectionist in some theater
of the unprepared. The kid determined
most likely to become an investment
banker became an investment banker.
The one voted most likely to become
a serial rapist became—surprise,
surprise—a serial rapist. Pretty
much everything was preordained. Yet there
was one grade-A nitwit, a bag head and
stalker of underage girls, who transformed
himself into a dentist of local
renown, and as he hovers over me
now in his clean and Christly smock, shining
as though reborn, I with my mouth pinioned
wide can merely grin at his conversion.
THE HILL COUNTRY FLAUTIST
Afterward Steve kept the curled
dormant-seeming strip of tape
as a reminder, pressing it in his tablature,
until it became its own kind of notation.
He had trouble answering
the kidnappers’ questions with his voice
muffled so, his toes dangling in a trough
of water, his body cabled like a dead
battery. His captors had been trying
to ascertain the whereabouts of a jailed
accomplice and, due to the strange black case
Steve carried on his person, had taken him
for some kind of agent. Really he was
just a flautist from the hill country
in for a weekend of carnal awakenings.
That night, after his impassioned soloing
in a basement club, Steve was led homeward
by a flower of a girl who dabbed
with fearsome gentleness at the glue still
remnanting his lips, then tied him up
and administered the series of burns
and bites he found he now preferred.
HIS IS NOT A DUST THAT SCATTERS
The Father makes an eruption and chaos ensues.
The kitchen fills each morning with the hubris
of The Father’s pickle & pimento loaf.
The Father picking lint from his tweed blazer.
One can watch zoo apes for hours.
It is his favorite program or nothing!
To The Father we live in animal filth, wedded to it.
The Father tosses footballs and makes us fetch.
We are not fetching enough.
The Father grasps his meals by the clavicles, by God!
His tankard of ale we present to him,
a gift he receives with a fluttering grunt.
The Father molts feathers of unexpressed verbiage.
We huddle under The Father’s outcropping.
His markings can more plainly be seen from a distance.
On car trips he recites the gospels of his youth,
the point being that his was the only childhood,
every childhood since his a smudged mirror,
a fart in a windstorm, as he is wont to say.
There is no dust but The Father’s dust, and his is not a dust that scatters.
Lest we forget, his is a rampant and rampaging dust.
The bills he hands us are rimed with it,
the dust rustles between our teeth,
sand flows from our ears as from a tureen.
It is our reminder when he grows old
and becomes a distant figure in a yawning Magritte,
baby-pink stranger gurgling out toothless smiles
as the children pass by in their silken neckties.
Image credit: Dentist at M.H. #5, Auteuil. The Dentist at AMERICAN RED CROSS Military Hospital No. 5 at Auteuil, via the American Red Cross and the Library of Congress.