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Eleventh Grade: 1971


    --for Hayes and Gail McNeill


All morning low clouds rain on yellow-green hills,

    on flat buildings, where we sit

in fluorescent light, or while we nudge to fit

under walkways’ covers.     

                Mini-skirted girls

watch each other flirt with the quarterback,

    while uncrossing legs spark

daydreams, while Mr. Green chats with Miss Clark,

while I sit invisible in the back

of the room, where I imagine rock tunes

    and write, “Richard Nixon

lies/ The eagle skeleton cries”: and on


and on the verses flow: while Mr. Jones

discusses the baseball team’s winning season,

    while Miss Clark reviews the days

of the week (loondi, merdi, macradi. . .),

while equations loom up behind Miss Gleeson.


    But Mr. McNeill walks in as the bell

rings and proclaims There was a child went forth

every day.  And after class, I show him my song,

    and he says, This image is strong,

this one flies: and I sing as I trot to sixth

period gym, though my songs will never sell,

though, instead of baskets, I zap teammates’ heads,


    though “my mind has been cornered, a rusting gun,”

though “in freezing rain my soul has bowed like grass,”

    though “my faraway drummer has

        been thumping a practice pad”:

    I’ve been alerted, thawed,

        charged, aimed, fired, called

            to march at last.




                --John Thomas York

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