Apr/May 1999 Poetry

A Story

by Julie King


A Story

The plotline would go something like this:
the girl is twelve, her hair is lank, and
she is in love with her English teacher.
She knows it's the same old tired story,
that his forearm and its gleaming hairs
pressing against hers while he corrects
her paper for spelling errors means
nothing more than what it is; she is
stupid, so stupid, and he likes pointing
that out to her. And then he likes
leaving the chalky-smelly room to see
his brunette wife who isn't greedy
for punishment. The girl punishes
herself more when she gets home,
the sun having grease-straightened her
hair, and she perches on the toilet,
making small, shaky cuts on her
thigh with a straight razor, crisscrosses
and x's and a shape of a heart,
a bleeding heart, she laughs, and laughs
harder when the blood flecks onto
the wallpaper, like blossoms blooming,
and she knows she'll be punished once
more by her mother before dinner
is even on the table. A rooster crows
somewhere in the distance, and she's sure
this anomaly is an omen, a vital sign,
a promise of all she knows being topsy-turvy
and higgledy-piggledy and helter-skelter,
and her English teacher will love her,
will love the blood on her thigh, the heart
that pours out for him, and she will learn
to spell separation and desperation over
and over until she knows the difference.


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