My Destiny

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My Destiny

The hall seethed.
Movement.
Noise.
Teenagers herded
between classes.

He stepped in front of me,
an adult out of place,
white shirt and tie.

Like me, he had two eyes,
but one,
rigid,
stared sightless
over my shoulder.

His good eye,
working for two,
eyed mine.

He minced no words.
“I hear you can write.”

He might as well
have accused
me of breathing.

We all had been taught
The ancient symbols of
the alphabet—

the letters,
their shape,
their sounds,
the possible combinations.

We’d learned together—

See Jane run.
See Spot jump.
See Bob climb.

Eleven years had passed
in the turning of a page—

one to go— 

Nouns. Verbs. Adjectives. 
Sentences. Paragraphs.

We all could write.

I’d told no one
I treasured the books.

Only Mother knew.

She’d confiscated
the flashlight
more than once.

“My name is O’Sammon,” he said.
“I teach journalism.
“I’d like you to sign up.
“I think you’ll be good at it.”

He’d singled me out of the herd.

Someone had ratted me out.

I did.
I was.

A one-eyed teacher made all the difference.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Latin As A Second Language

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Latin As A Second Language

“Do you understand Latin?” Mr. Horace, the principal, asked.
Standing my ground, I admitted to terra firma. 
After all, I was in the midst of seventh grade Latin. 
At twelve years of age, I was quite small then.

The spilled marbles cascading about had tripped me up. 
Needle and thread. 
I must remember me to patch the hole in my jacket pocket. 
Crucial details. 

“Do you know what innuendo means?” Horace continued. 
He’d closed the door to his office.
“Vaguely,” I replied. "Insinuating wickedness about a classmate?"
"Close enough,” he said, torching up a cigar.

When Ms. Strangle heard the marbles roll, 
every girl in the class swiveled and stared at me.

 How about ipso facto?” he asked.
“Never heard of it,” I admitted, silently cursing my ignorance. 
“I may have been down with malaria that day.”
I gave him a moment, then added, “Or something much worse.”

“The enemy of one’s enemy, ipso facto, is a friend,” Mr. Horace recited. 
“Ms. Strangle accuses you. Ray Cole vouches for you.”
“Ipso facto,” I said. 
“Bully for him,” I muttered.

When the marbles rolled, Ray, stood and pointed 
at Lucky Lucy Rabbitz, a known felon.  
Lucky Lucy sat two desks behind me. 
She had done hard time somewhere in Tukwila. 
She sharpened her pencils as if honing butcher knives.
The hair on my neck stood on end whenever she came near.

“Are you at all familiar with locus delicti?” Horace asked. 
“Of course,” I replied. 
“The scene of a crime. But no crime was committed.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” he said, blowing cigar smoke in my face.

Mom smoked cigars of course, 
but I got carsick when she did, so I never took it up. 
I felt the familiar gagging deep in my throat.
The air was so thick I could barely make out Mr. Horace’s face.                       
 I fumbled through my Latin note cards. “Nauseous here,” I said.  

“Not my problem,” he replied airily.
“Do you play marbles during recess?’ he asked, 
his voice piercing the thick cloud.
“Interdum,” I said. “When the mood strikes.”

“Did the mood strike this morning?” he asked. 
He moved the cigar’s glowing tip close to my face.
“No. I played tetherball with my colleagues 
to relieve the stress brought on by studying Latin 
under the clumsy guidance of Ms. Strangle.”  

“Odd,” he said. “She thinks otherwise.”

“She has been misinformed,” I said. 
“An obvious instance of ad absurdum by a consortium of tattlers.” 
I added a footnote. 
“Let’s face it, some people are not cut out to teach seventh grade.”
I paused for effect.
 “But she might make a jim dandy cafeteria supervisor.” 

Mr. Horace giggled. 
“I was thinking the exact same thing,” he said, 
stubbing out the cigar on his desktop. 
“Off with you now, kid. Stay out of trouble. Do no harm. 
Go to law school. 
You’ve a knack for cover-up.  Et cetera.” 

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Quarantined

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Quarantined

More than just a rainy day
child’s indoor game,

Monopoly 

taught us that some
properties were more
valuable than others;

that hotels cost more
than houses;

that landlords were
cruel masters;

that money could
be hoarded;

that bankruptcy
was shameful;

that math
could be managed
in the head;

and
that success in life 

might depend 
on the roll of dice.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Genesis, Revised

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Genesis, Revised

In the beginning 
there was a constant
stream of sounds,

and then God

sat down on a wooden stool,

and much like grandmother,
intent upon her business of
snapping harvested beans 
for the canning jars,

God broke noise

into discrete pieces
called words,

knowing the Tower of Babel’s
foundation had already 
been laid

that we might the better

understand, 

laugh at, 

and love

each other.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection

Root Of All Evil

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Root Of All Evil

Had I but
learned by heart,

Romeo’s scathing words

aimed at the anguished
Apothecary:

“I give you poison.
You give me none.”

surely,

God be my witness,

i would have taken

Poetry

as my second language,

and been rendered 

more free of 

money.

. . . j
from the Childhood Remedy and Other Such collection