My Third Grade Teacher Preempts the Bullies
The summer before third grade
he and his brother
soaked a tennis ball in gasoline,
they were just messing around.
They lit the thing on fire, and he lost
over three quarters of his skin.
In the third grade
our teacher had prepared a slideshow.
He told us about the tennis ball,
described months spent suspended in liquid,
skin grafts and antibiotics.
There were pictures,
lots of pictures;
gruesome shots of the original injury,
gradual stages of healing skin,
full body shots in the tank.
Over half of his face had been replaced.
And he was coming back to school.
We didn’t know what tennis balls do
when you soak them in gasoline,
what becomes of your flesh
in the aftermath.
I’d spent my summer on swing sets.
He’d spent his in a vat
of restorative chemicals.
Children can be cruel.
A young boy with vicious pink skin
stretching his face erratically taut,
from just months before,
might be easy prey to his classmates.
But no one said a word,
not one taunt,
no vicious remark.
He was welcomed and
questioned with deep curiosity.
Our teacher had made sure of that.
We’d been prepared.
I Did Not Lose
I did not lose,
My father left the scotch,
not the family
And childhood was white picket and
there was a corsage pinned to my prom dress and
I graduated summa cum laude and
wrote a best selling novel,
an Oscar winning screenplay,
played Beethoven at Carnegie Hall.
I saved the whales.
I danced the Foxtrot
I circled the world
in a hot air balloon.
I was the first woman in space,
the hottest number on the charts,
on the cover of Time,
at the top of Mount Everest, the
President of the United States of America.
And you my love,
You were still there.
We still met.
We still raged
like an unchecked forest fire.
Only this time
There were no other dance partners,
and nothing hurt.
This time I was fearless.
This time I was swept,
and there was a white horse.
There was a sunset ridden into,
white doves and Valentines and anniversaries and parties on your arm
and little gifts for no reason at all because we
were never meant to be apart,
two interlocking pieces, your
fingers laced in mine at the movies, my
head on your shoulder on the cab ride home, our
breath fogging together in the winter chill.
This time I didn’t watch from outside the window.
Thadra Sheridan is a writer and performer from Minneapolis, MN. Her work has appeared in Rattle, The Legendary, Abyss & Apex, Blotterature, Specter, Rat’s Ass Review, on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam, Button Poetry, UpWorthy, and in several anthologies. She is the recipient of the Jerome Foundation’s Verve Grant for Spoken Word and a past weekly columnist for Opine Season. She is currently working on a memoir and a series of short films based on her poetry. Check her out at http://www.thadrasheridan.com.