Gym Hallway III

Mr. Corcoran, I think we’re all—

Not your fight, Miss Gavelston,
he says, examining a tile on the floor.

Mr. Corchoran… It’s right in front of me.
If that doesn’t involve me…?

The kid on the floor is touching his fingertips
to his stomach. He looks at me through the glass.

This is some pinko
Boston bureaucrat
, Mr. Corcoran says.
Not you. He inks a paper
and forgets about us.
No one who lives here
would let these niggers into our school.

They brought their black—
their God-damned violent
community problems—where they don’t belong.
We’ve got enough of those
on our own, keeping
the lot of you in line
while your parents work.

It’s not just smart to stay clear
of someone else’s fight, Alice.
You help us do our jobs.

Corcoran turns his head
toward the wall.

Stand up. What’s your name?

Marshall.

Marshall what?

Jackson, sir.

What were you doing
in the hallway, Mr. Jackson?

I was leaving class, sir.

Which class was that?

Biology.

Which teacher?

Mrs. Steele. His stomach shudders
through his button-up shirt.

She’s teaching only honors classes
this semester.

Yes, sir, he says quieter. It’s Honors Biology.

What was today’s lesson?

Excuse me, sir?

What was today’s lesson about?

We talked… mostly about pathogens.

Over Marshall’s head,
out the window, a blue Challenger spins
too fast into the parking lot
and Brock and several girls
hop over the door
with fast-food bags.
I can almost hear him laughing.

Corcoran moves his tongue
over the front of his teeth.

Added: January 23, 2013 | Last changed: May 12, 2016