Rex Wimberly is doodling pictures of
penises ejaculating into
open mouths–I can’t tell from here, over
his shoulder, whether they’re men or women.
I’ve never seen lips spread like that before,
but then, he’s not a very good artist.
Still, I can see what’s on his mind, during
Miss MacMillan’s biology lecture.
Her first name is Gertrude. We call her that
behind her back. Not to her face, I mean.
She looks like a Gertrude, we say. But she’s
a good teacher and we’re good students, just
thirteen, our heads for girls and how they make
us feel, or how we make them make us feel.
Mitzi Youngblood and Jenny Martinez
especially. And when we turn around
to view a filmstrip on the lab’s back wall
we’re no longer sitting in the rear–we’re
front and center, Rex and I, and Carl Croy
and Mick Clark. Gertie calls on us to read
the captions at the bottom of each slide
but we know what she’s really up to–she
wants to catch us laughing so she can kick
us out, send us to the vice-principal,
“Gruesome” Newsome. She can’t make us crack, though
–we’re too smart for that. She darkens the room
and turns on the machine and calls my name:
Gale, read for us, please, until I tell you
Stop. I do; Rex and Carl are sniggering,
trying to make me break. I cough and squint
and buy a moment of precious silence
so I can compose myself. Click. Next slide
and I read on, something about homones.
Whore moans, Carl whispers in my ear. Don’t laugh,
Acuff. I don’t. I keep it up. Gertie
will give it up in four or five more pics
and then choose Rex or Mike or Carl. Then I
can muffle my delayed lost laughter, do
unto them what they’ve done to me, or try
to read the article in the magazine
which Mike’s brought in today, something about
what sex feels like when you’ve been smoking pot,
but in the dark I can’t see into his
lap. When we’ve all read without a slip, girls
take over for the rest of the show. We
win again–good students, and not just on
paper. When Gertie snaps the lights back on
we all turn around, pupils dilated,
Gertie looking fresh for her sixty years.
She gives us our homework, several questions
at the end of Chapter 6. Please answer
them fully. Then the short definitions
about the hormones we’ve covered today.
Rex takes down the directions on the page
in his notebook full of penises, breasts,
spurting plasms of sperm, waiting gaping
mouths, swastikas, Playboy bunny logos,
vaginas–or tacos, maybe?–a hand
spreading a peace sign, another giving
the finger, a third flashing the Vulcan
Astoundingly long penises. Good buds
–we’re approaching that age when biology
begins to study us; we feel it in
our bones. Hair in nutty places, voices
breaking, foul smells like our fathers leak, hard
times talking to the girls now filling out
as if for us. Patsy has long blond hair
and bosoms that mean business, and Jackie
is going all to curves and it scares me,
what we’re coming to. I mean I want it
and I don’t–it feels like maturity.
I’m thirteen but I could give Gertie all
she wants and more but she’s too old for kids
and only my guts have a thing for her.
I wonder if my buddies think so, too,
but I’ll never ask them–they’d laugh at me.
We’re straight-A students because we work hard.
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Coe Review, McNeese Review, Adirondack Review, Weber: The Contemporary West, Maryland Poetry Review, Florida Review, South Carolina Review, Carolina Quarterly, Arkansas Review, Poem, South Dakota Review, and many other journals. He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse Press, 2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008). He has also taught university English in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.