blackbirdonline journalSpring 2010  Vol. 9  No. 1
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Everything Before “Happy” Is True

Mrs. Richey manned the big desk, marking quizzes, 
my little desk pulled next to hers like a tender
moored in the lee of a dreadnought holed
below the waterline, while I sidled fearfully through rows
of students crooked by the state over the state’s
disfigured books, laboring toward the past
perfect tense. “Is that past perfect or simply the past?”
I asked again and again until a boy, sick of hearing it,
backhanded me across the neck. I caught my fall
against a thickset girl, who snarled, “Get
your hands off me!”
                               When I jerked upright,
he was deep in the page before him, beefy fingers
etching piffle—random nouns—into notebook paper.
I bent till we were breathing each other’s breath,
and savored the wincing intimacy as his smirk
withered. I’d been terrified. Now I was rashly happy
as I closed my lips gently over his nose. My future?
Pfft! Even being betrayed as a pervert
meant shit. Holding his shoulder against his rising,
I snapped my canines. He bucked hard once, went limp,
and I spat his blood onto his un-tensed un-sentences.  end

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