Only the janitor could open the transoms

They locked the windows to stop us from running

Our coaches carried four-foot paddles

drilled with one-inch holes,

slammed them into our asses

until our faces exploded,

swung again and again to break us in half


A fourth of the freshman girls became mothers,

wailed loudly in the halls and blamed us

Some of my friends did time or probation

for shoplifting, burglary, or car theft

Others shot heroin in the bathrooms

All of us escaped our homes for midnight asphalt,

swigging quart bottles of watery beer

For gangs from other schools

we wound links of tire chain around fists

hidden in the pockets of our leather jackets,

hoping to sidestep an ice pick

or dodge a baseball bat


From our parents and teachers we learned

to shield our faces with a raised elbow

and keep our best hand free