In first grade my hands would sweat pools
onto the fake blond wood grain
of my desk. Math classes made me tense.
They warped my spine and made my neck hurt.
Lift up the curtain of stars and show me
the King's magic exit. They served chili
in Styrofoam cups and offered tiny half-pint
bottles of milk. We ate on mess hall tables
that folded up and were wheeled away
through the gymnasium as recess began
and we beat each other with jump ropes
and blew ground chalk powder into each other's
eyes. I can still smell those blue tiled corridors
mopped daily with disinfectant to keep
us pure. I see the tall nurse in her white
sweater and the red cross pin on her lapel.
I see our hedgehog principal whose name
was Violet. I see our Polish Phys Ed instructor,
Mr. Jotsky, with his net bag of volleyballs,
and with his black whistle dangling from his neck.
We called ourselves “The Hawks” and wore
dark blue sweatshirts on the cold soccer field,
and ran back and forth chasing a black and white
ball made of patchwork pentagons.
We were allowed one point per score.
Stingy. Ungenerous. I visit this place
occasionally in my mind, not frequently,
but just enough to remind me to alter
the details the next time I live through it,
to do something violent or to do something
kind, to alter the axis, to fiddle with the outcome,
to change the scenery. I once sat wide-eyed
exclaiming to my sister we had lived
this 1000 times previously, exactly
the same way each time.
She and I were convinced it was time for a change.