Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Y Factor

Alarm bells ring at 5 AM
Fingers fuzzily fumble for the snooze
But then relinquish the covers
Before the bell sings again

It is not bells to whom we reply
But rather it is…
The call of the Y

We shuffle through its doors
Mumble hellos through unbrushed teeth
Or maybe just nod
Clang our lockers
And done our battle gear
Uncombed hair
Is pulled back in pony tails
Tucked under swim caps
Plastered to our skulls

We commence
Sleepy brains count yards
And strokes
And strokes per x amount of yards
They count heartbeats and measure miles
And calculate minutes per mile
Slope-intercept form ready

We reach and we pull
We lengthen our stride
Extend our reach
We work and we sweat
All accompanied by
the heavy (morning) breath symphony

Sixty minutes and many heartbeats later
We reunite in the locker room
Gone are the trudging drones with messy hair
The Y has worked its magic
Our smiles are exuberant
Our bodies lithe
Our greetings and exchanges
Charged with the electricity of

We spring out through Y doors
In school clothes
In work suits
Our rouged cheeks and lips
Curled into satisfied smiles
That leak out
And meld with the sunshine

Cuz underneath it all
We carry the Y factor
We know the secret

Underneath it all
We are bone and tissue
well-toned muscle
chlorine-tinged skin
and steadily-beating heart.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Battle Hymn

I fly but with my wings tucked
my head cradled between them
sucking in my gut (as if)
tightening abs and ass
to minimize the drag

Even my lips are compressed
until I see
and feel
39 MPH

tinged with not a little fear
pries open my lips
unclenches my throat
and allows
Gillian Welch's Indian War Whoop
to escape from my mouth

The cry ricochets off the asphalt
is carried on the winds
all the way down the hill
into the surrounding ditches and woods
threading its way into the very fabric of the day
proclaiming that

feels good.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


I fought her in fourth grade. She struggled with Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies and me. She stole things, she lied, she alienated her peers.

She stockpiled food. The granola bar and apple I’d give her for breakfast would later be spied in parts – pieces stashed in her locker, her coat pocket, her backpack, her desk. She came to school hungry. She came dirty, tired, cranky, and with toothaches. She in no way could be termed “ready to learn.”

I fed her, yes. I ignored her smell, yes. I gave her pencils and books, stickers and hugs. But make no mistake - I pushed her, yes. Sometimes to tears. She’d leave my room to go to the counselor, to cry. I begged the speech teacher to continue to see her, if only to give her a reprieve from me. To give her another outlet, someone who could be softer, who didn’t feel compelled to teach her, who didn’t see so clearly and believe so dearly that education was her only ticket out.

I fought her in fourth grade.

Now she is in eighth grade, her locker across from my room. She unfailingly greets me when we pass in the hallways, she has joined my book club. She confides in me about her period and boys, her sister, her grandma, and – once in a while – her dad.

This girl I fought in fourth grade. I think she knows. I pushed her, yes. I ignored her smell, yes. I even fed her. But what I really wanted all this time was to nourish her.