words: SAME STORY

orange

happiness

shallow

line

SAME STORY

I’ve known the story since second grade,

that terrible year. The teacher checking

our fingernails and handkerchiefs,

teaching nothing but tedium. Gray

and marcelled, as chained as I 

to that small-town school.

The stench of hot-lunch goulash.

White bread spread thick with margarine.

The shallow patch of backlot gravel

where we tried to play. 

 

Reading was my happiness.

Sometimes I was allowed 

to sit on the windowsill with a book.

And where would I have found

such a thing in that barren place?

I can still see the drawing clearly—

the line of the girl’s dress,

the dragon’s orange flame.

And the prince—not St. George, I think—

but it was the same tale—

the monster demanding sacrifice, 

the unexpected release. 

 

REUNION

REUNION

Was it spring of 67 or 68 when we cut

class to bottle Phil’s beer? 68 because

you were out of the dorm, into that house

with the blacklight bathroom. The artist

who made all those death masks only

we were still alive. Our faces done in

plaster tape. We drank it all, didn’t we,

before graduation, the night we played

charades in the park. Phil sang so

loud the cops came and sent us home.

He married her—the artist, I can’t

remember her name. Somewhere

on the Cape. All those masks. Remember

the bonfire? Masks and class notes.

Hundreds of masks, or at least dozens.

Hanging in that bathroom. I’d like

to have one now, that plain white.

The plaster heated up after awhile.

Trusting somebody so you could breathe.

Phil was at some museum last I heard.

Maura. He and Maura didn’t last,

but we all knew they wouldn’t the way

she fooled around. The pink dotted-

swiss bridesmaid’s dress I tossed after

the wedding, and she was an artist.

Empire waists so we all looked

pregnant. I guess some of us were.

Funny you can be someone’s brides-

maid and lose touch and even forget

her name. Maura. Funny to be

with old friends and know, all

of a sudden, that we’re old.