High School

I didn’t go to the
average high school
or maybe I did
I don’t know what
is average
all I know is
it doesn’t seem
to make much sense
that you would need
clear bookbags
and metal detectors
and guards
with dogs
for kids who are still
in their adolescence.

I didn’t go to the
average high school
or maybe I did
do the students
usually get high in
the bathrooms?
Is it common for
there to be a nursery
on the premises
and a fight a week
where my friend
had bleach thrown
in his eyes?

Is it normal
for their to be
a fire alarm
pulled every other
week so that
kids can sneak
out to do
other things?

Don’t get me wrong
I don’t blame them
I understand
but when you’re
being funneled
out into
the football field
in the wake
of columbine
at 9 and then noon
again
it gets to be a little
bit disconcerting.

Is it normal
that the sport’s teams
are divided racially
but not by intention
just as a result
of the socio-economic
situation
of living in or nearby
Atlantic City?

Where the crew team
is tall and white
but the basketball players
are tall and black
while the tennis team
is filled with a nice
mix of asians and whites
and indians from the surrounding
suburban streams.

Where the soccer
is completely hispanic
except for this one white kid
who didn’t seem to get the memo
but thought it still fun
when he left junior high.

Where the chess team
plots and schemes
of ways to take the knight and king
but is that really a sport
anyway?
I mean we’re still talking about
the days when boys and girls
played outside in the streets
and the world had yet to see
the meaning of the PSP.

I remember walking through
those multi-colored hallways
inter-weaving my way
through the crowds
of minorities
so I could get special treatment
in the honors classes and AP.

I remember using the library
not as a place to hide
from disciplinary measures
but as a source of hidden
treasures
and going to lunch not for the
sake of the pizza and fries
but to catch up on last night’s
homework exercise.

I remember waking up at 6:15
to catch the bus
on the corner
where I had to walk past this
vicious dog who would
always threaten
to jump over the puny fence
and devour me
but now I get it
now I understand what my neighbor
had in mind

He could sense that one day
that dog would make its way
into rhyme and verse
and therefore this canine trauma
needed to be rehearsed
on a daily basis
for better or worse.

I remember running
to catch that big yellow submarine
as it passed my block
and how I was sheltered within
its walls while the other buses
housed bullies and brawls

And walking home from school
for miles because there was no bus
to pick you up from practice
and how I learned character
in this way
or at least so I like to believe
and not that this was some
ridiculous oversight.

I remember how practically
every kid would walk from class
to the nearby McDonalds
whether to work there
or to be fed
because they had yet to find
anything substantive
to fill their belly or head.

I have a vague memory
of being contained between
the glass doors
waiting to go through
the security port
when I was accosted
for the sake of my wristwatch
because we still wore those

Back then cell phones
only being a recent invention
needed to be hidden
within aluminum wrapping
in your brown bagged lunch
to fool the administration.

I remember seeing the girl’s
head slammed against the wall
and the blood dripping into a pool
surrounding the entrance
to the lunch room

And I remember the joy found
in the faces of kids researching
their favorite rap lyrics
and nike kicks.

And I remember still believing
that there was something to be said
for this education and so devouring
what was given
without questioning explanation.

And I have vague memories
of the occasional teacher
who took it upon themselves
to act outrageously
to reprimand for no reason
to hand out lower grades
to students
in order to uphold their own
sense of self worth.

The times sent to the principal’s office
to explain why standing up to the teacher
for the sake of something with purpose
meant more than the fact
that my parents had my back

That injustice would not be allowed
to stand under the name
of the student always being wrong
but mercilessly excused

The little battles waged for the sake
of unknown virtue in these early
days of political dissent
all the while maintaining
the mandatory GPA standing
and pretending
there were good reasons
for all days absent.

Going from the suburb to the city
where the bike no longer carries
the skateboard inadequate
replaced by the bus and car
machinery which ushers
in a new stage of life
in the development
of adolescence into the fodder
for the working class reality
of the future.

Where new friends were made
before the full concept
of difference in upbringing was realized
within the walls which still
harbored innocence
and naivety.

I remember discovering marijuana
but not alcohol
in that senior year
where poker was all the range
different means of bringing together
all these youth
still looking for their first lay

Though I was mostly consumed
by the burning passion
to get into a school of the highest institution
because I had yet to realize
that the name is not synonymous
with the education.

So much unnecessary anxiety
so many nights without sleep
eyes exhausted
sitting on that ride in the morning
and then falling in my desk
failing to realize
what my body
would suggest.

But it was worth it to see
Jordan and Malone fighting it out
on the tv screen
which I watched so intently
at night when I was supposed to be
asleep
little did I know that I was watching
greatness.

And when after school playing
those video games
of Mario and Kombat and Goldeneye
and thinking it doesn’t get any better
in this paradise world
where one can build a ramp
out of a piece of wood
and a rail out of a pipe
and have endless hours of enjoyment
without paying a cent.

And in the summers going to the beach
within arms reach
to ride the waves
and come home and play
and eat outside
and never have the thought occur
that this was paradise.

For it was too busy being lived
than to be conceived.
There was no need to strive
for that which was at hand,
no need to do anything else
than go to school
and stay
out of
the adult’s way.