Mrs. Hyde, Fourth Hour, Eleventh Grade, English Honors
She held a pencil, stiffly between thumb and index finger,
slam its pointless end against the side of the grey metal desk:
"I don't want to hear it, Class!" she snapped,
meaning anything, meaning the reason they hadn't read "Evangeline,"
done their papers, memorized their thirty lines from Hamlet.
Then she read out loud my poem about the wapiti. I blushed.
I wanted my poem to sound like Hiawatha,
to catch sunlight filtering through the crowns
of the trees' high stories. Wapiti are elk. An Indian word.
Maybe I made that up,
just liked the sound of it. Wapiti. My friends said it wrong,
like "Woppity." Butch Carlson whispered, "Hippity, hoppity
goes the great Woppity." Screw him.
Screw them all and their basketball on Friday nights,
having something to do and someone to do it with,
on couches, in back seats. Outside,
in the snow, neighborhood children were making angels
and a dog was barking, delighted with the way weather
and light had become something solid to lie in or play with.
This was the first time since fourth grade, when Mrs Montgomery,
whom I loved, pinned my drawing of a donkey to the corkboard. . .
Mrs. Hyde was a bitch, but she understood:
"Wapiti." She said it slowly, in Butch's face: "Wah-pee-tee."