With fists, with words, with kindness
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Our high-school principal wagged his finger
over two manila folders
lying on his desk, labeled with our names —
my boyfriend and me,
called to his office for skipping school.
The day before, we’d ditched Latin and world history
to chase shadows of clouds on a motorcycle.
We roared down rural roads,
through the Missouri River bottoms beyond town,
wind teasing the hair on our bare heads,
empty of review tests and future plans.
We stopped on a dirt road to hear
a meadowlark’s skittish song and smell
the heartbreak blossom of wild plum.
Beyond leaning fence posts and barbwire,
a tractor drew straight lines across a field
unfurling its cape of blackbirds.
Now, fifty years after that geography lesson
of spring, I remember the words
of the principal, how right he was in saying:
This will become part
of your permanent record.