My pal, Jake, majored in corruption.
His final exam: a girl from the Midwest,
three weeks to dismantle eighteen years
of good parenting. High results came early
in the easy days, with the principal taking
his puff from the honor role in the bathroom.
In gym we learned how to turn our backs
on the world at once; the team
elected me captain of varsity nosebleeds.
At the prom, we parked our limousine
before doing the mandatory wind sprints;
my date's eyes were big, hazel dictionaries.
At our homecoming Jake injected the clouds
with a hero's last breath; rain on the victory parade
was greeted with cheers. The years rushed by
with their tongues hanging out. We packed
our cages and invented course work overseas.
In Guatemala, we copied back pain
for a hundred milligrams of extra credit
and proudly parachuted into sleep. In Prague
we emptied our text books and guzzled
chapters of Bohemian history. The class
kept shrinking until it was just me, passing
all the social tests. I returned to America
fluent in disaster; all the smiles I looked at
collapsed. I walked my pneumonia
up Avenue A, where inconspicuous teachers
assigned telepathic equations. My pupils
leapt from dilated chalkboards; a hundred
consecutive nights of slow, dirty arithmetic
curdled inside of me. Graduation
is an impossibility. Ditto expulsión.
I am permanently unrolled in the rambling
Lectures of insomnia. Wake in the lab
with my back against the wall. Turn: the wall
turns on me. I am the mutual friend
of enemy foxholes. It's like bowling
for hostages: exactly beyond my periphery.