An Alternate History of Ninth Grade (Poem)

by digitalhyperlexic

An Alternate History of Ninth Grade

(TRIGGER WARNINGS: Bullying, threat of sexual assault, implied racism.)

This poem is part of my MFA thesis Time Travel in a Closet, which will be released sometime in the next year. Included below will be a link to an audio file of me reading it on SoundCloud.

The kid in the seat behind you
in fourth period Algebra I
did not snap your bra; he

and his friends did not
corner you near the stairs
and call you a freak.

You never felt imprisoned
in that circle of leering boys,
afraid their fingers would

claw into you, cleave you
apart skin and all, string
your mango flesh all over

the gymnasium floor.
And that same boy never
shoved you into the corner

of a water fountain
the one time you tried
to hit him back; instead,

you watched your fist
connect with his teeth,
and you wore his blood

smeared on your knuckles
as a badge. Four months
away from your thirty-ninth
birthday, you do not still

have panic attacks or
flashbacks, and you walk
past a group

of white teenage boys without
fighting the urge to run
or clench your fist. You

think of high school fondly,
and the words rape culture
never cross your mind.