Treasure Island

Jeffrey McDaniel

(1967 / Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Alibi School

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.

Submitted: Thursday, July 14, 2005
Edited: Friday, February 15, 2008

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