Standing on the steps of the high school
those mornings I envied the other girls
their eyes lined and lips glossed with 79-cent Avon–
and while Jane argued with Priscilla
about which was more seductive,
intelligence or the new math
or when Pat bantered with Bill
about batting averages and RBIs,
I wished I too
could get the hang of small talk;
instead, tongue-tied,
I resorted to noticing how the older boys
pants pegged and hair
slicked back like Elvis
followed the curve of light on a cheerleader’s sweater.
Those afternoons Warren and Jeff
chained their Harleys
like wild animals to a tree,
and, collars turned up,
danced unafraid in the gym,
while, out on the ball field.
trombones growling and trumpets howling,
the marching band
deployed between grandstand and goal post
toed the twenty-yard line
tongueing triumphantly the truculent high notes.
Even then we understood some small secrets
about passion
and long before someone
smuggled the D.H. Lawrence
from the Latin teacher’s purse
or lifted the Ulysses from Mr. DeWalt’s personal library,
we were already worried
that hope had an ablative absolute,
that regret was its own intimate, read infinite,
series of vectors and trajectories.
What we studied was not just Joanne’s
impeccable grade point
or John’s infatuation with physics
but those nights, Lucky Strikes
smoldering under the streetlamps
we worked hard
to perfect the algorithms
of our own lies and legends.
What we learned
was that our teachers
may have seen us with more compassion
than we allowed ourselves
or one another;
what we still want to know
is how to convey all of this,
now more than thirty-five
years later.

By Alinda Dickinson Wasner

-From The Long and Winding Road, Dzanc Books
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