Poetry 2011 / Volume 42

That Place Back There — Scott T. Hutchinson

When Bennie curses Shakespeare’s name
JD closes his eyes and says
nothing—remembers an old
bearded dude who lived and loved it
storming the otherwise dim classroom, reading
softly then loudly, his voice rolling out like
rich liquor—then Larry coughs and spits
and lays damnation on mathematics—
says X and Y and KY ain’t no numbers
worth a poot, that a circle is a circle
not worth measuring across—and JD
goes back in grey matter
to sawing notches in curves of wood
and using fishing line to make extra-credit
geometric string art just to pass Geometry
since the wrinkled and kindly teacher-lady cut him slack
for his’slack—in jumps Jake hissing over rules against
hats and cussing and sleeping and fighting and he
hated every principal and vice-principal
while Bennie and Larry middle-finger the air
in agreement—but JD smiles at the way one time
the crew-cutted discipline dude was on the phone
when he was sent in and paused saying
think up your lie while I finish this call
and I’ll be right with you and the two of them
laughed at the whopper he spun when asked
what the issue was this time but what really
jiggles the old brain cells with fire for JD
the thing he tells them is God’s truth
is the day during Winter Carnival
when nobody else would represent the seniors
at lunchtime as a wildly enthusiastic
PE teacher held an Oreo stacking contest
and he of all people got up for some reason
and his back table boys watched as he JD
stepped up grabbing five at a time in his
big mitts while all the whiz kids delicately
placed one cookie after another on shaky
worthless toppling towers with him propping
eight handfuls quick as you please
for a school record forty cookies
the whole place howling his name
his picture appearing next day in the local paper
and so now JD alpha-dogs and hushes the crew with his
awe and insistence saying high school was a
damn good thing people tried hell they tried
to share something righteous and everybody pauses
as the old mist clears then the Boss-man overseeing them yells
Time to get back to work clearing that ditch
and their orange worksuits all burn brighter than the sun

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