Monday, September 17, 2012


You always walk into homeroom late
right in front of the teacher’s desk
turning at the row by the windows
you slide sideways to your seat in the back corner.
Before you get there that tic pulls
your right shoulder up
left around and down momentarily
both arms dangle from your elbows.

Everyday those same wrinkled jeans faded
knees carelessly embroidered.
No usual denim on denim rustle
rather a faint hiss as
one leg passes the other
wafting burnt vanilla, fried egg, and pachouli.

You rarely speak
but at least three times a week during Mr. Long’s math class
you tap the back of the girl sitting in front of you
signaling your exit to the Girls’ Room for a smoke.
You both sit on the floor legs extended
passing a Marlboro back and forth
toes of your Timberlands play footsie with the worn out rubber soles of the other girl’s Keds
an occasional wet lipped smack when you inhale
or airy whistle exhaling.

You take your last drag, nod, stand up
snuff your butt on the black and white tile
head for the door
the other girl follows down the hall.
Outside the classroom you wait
until Mr. Long faces the board
then like dancers performing a pas de deux
you and the other girl step, bend, tilt,
sit in unison.

The other girl doesn’t know anything else about you –
not that your older brother’s schizophrenic
your mother teaches fourth grade
you live in an historic stone mansion
or that you move from north Jersey to New York city the next year.
You don’t know anything about the other girl either
she never talks to you –
for 186 days of 11th grade not once
in the Girls’ Room or out.

Not until the other girl sees you crossing Third Avenue in the mid-80s
recognizing your jeans’ greasy
shine first then your tic.
She calls the only J in the Manhattan phone book with
your last name a few days later
leaves a message: something about high school.
You call back and ask her machine “Why did you call me”?
The other girl doesn’t call again
but she wanted to always
wanted to wants to
know why you tapped her.

But now you pluck bossa nova guitar
at outdoor jazz festivals swoon
about feeling dead in high school
pose in an oversize man’s oxford
one knee up, the other bent
resting on the floor forming a leggy 4,
hand cradling your inner thigh.
You’re peeled, tucked, workout buff, spray tanned, photoshopped
channeling Brigitte Bardot with dark brown extensions
and the bio on your official website doesn’t mention New Jersey.

About Carra Leah Hood:
Carra Leah Hood has published poetry in Nebula and nonfiction in a number of journals, including Feminist Media Studies. She also wrote a personal essay to introduce her dad’s posthumously-published memoir. In addition, she has presented essays and mixed-media work at local conferences in Connecticut and New Jersey. The above piece comprises part of a work-in-progress, a book-length collection of reflective poetry, prose, and images tentatively titled Class Picture.

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