Apr/May 2004 Poetry Special Feature

Albert's Occiput

by James M. Thompson

Art by Janet L. Snell


Albert's Occiput

It was there, we all knew it:
the bleached white shined
as if waxed, the black sutures
dividing it excited us even more,
like shadowy passages into gray.

The skull reeked with obnoxious possibility,
silently facing the back wall,
a testament to some ancient genius,
honored out of shear brilliance
to spend eternity on a dusty shelf

surrounded by cartons of rubber gloves
beakers of odd chemicals, test tubes
and a discarded text book or two.
Each year we gave it a name
Descartes, Shakespeare, most often, Albert.

We never considered the possible mediocrity
that a janitor's skull would ever grace
the dusty shelf in the Chemistry Lab
of Stroudsburg Junior High School.
The thought just never occurred to us.

So this year Albert's occiput glares
though locked glass, quietly observing us
observing him as we chew gum, pass notes
and whisper just beyond our teacher's view,
confident Albert won't speak a word.


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