Back In School

by Brent Short on October 6, 2012


Click the arrow below to listen.

Daunted, silly, incorrigible,
a class of boys and girls
face each other across
a shiny hallway,
lined up separately against
opposite walls, observing
a maintained distance.
In a moment of awkwardness,
exposed by a girl’s laughter,
a young boy becomes conscious
of what he was:
lanky arms and legs
sticking out of gym clothes.

Junior high—boys glumly sitting
on front of the gym stage
passing time in a blur
of romantic nihilism,
listening as the band played
music the girls could dance
to by themselves.

More highlights from an uneventful life—
what next?

Later, he would return home
staying only long enough to
remind himself of why he had left,
figuring out what to do with himself.
He decides to spin for her
(still withdrawn and seductive?)
a new myth, more sensible—
the peculiar memories of
their school years displaced,
explained away.

With the subdued wariness
of adulthood, judging both his
experience and innocence,
she would peer through this conversation—
its giddy reconstructions—
as if he had always been
a threat in her imagination,
as if some intimacy had
been long ago betrayed,
as if she were staring right down at it,
floating over the wreckage.
He had to admit to being
little more than a stranger.
She wanted to hear him say it.

Some wounds are real,
and some imaginary.
The impact of their effect?
Not necessarily in that order.
And yet, I do believe,
for the most part it’s better
not to avoid injury.
But more times than not
we’re operating
on some type of sliding scale.

Back in school I never got it,
especially when the surprises
came… well, unexpectedly,
so bewilderingly.

Desperate for recognition,
what mixture of frailties
caused her pointed laughter?
How much of those inhibitions
deserve simpler explanation—
say, a decidedly unheroic
lack of adventure, simply
our inability to trust uncertain things?
Whatever the answer,
we live on surviving it.

But that’s enough about you—
back to my story.
Here it is, keep your facts straight,
and a word of caution—
never discuss myth
with a true historian.

Brent Short

Brent Short lives outside Tampa and works at Saint Leo University as the Director of Library Services.  He’s been a contributor to Sojourners, Radix, Mars Hill Review and Inklings. His poetry has appeared in Eads Bridge Literary Review, Windhover, Tar River Poetry and Sandhill Review, and still holds up “The Waste Land” and “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot as the towering achievements in modern poetry that the rest of us can only aspire to.


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