poetryrepairs 16,10:112

JANET I. BUCK : The Shape of Sores
JANET I. BUCK : The Sex-Ed Class in 1966

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The Shape of Sores

This brand begins deep inside a bone. Its blossom hurts; it’s not a blushing peony. The rubicund color comprised of coals, burning in the hearth for months— I feel them brew like healthy people smell their morning coffee sitting in a clear carafe. When bedsores break the tender flesh, it’s way too late— a signal that the end is near. Simply look the other way and hold my hand; it’s growing cold. Don’t bring me mirrors, rubbing in what’s obvious. Forget the present agony— remember all the miles I hiked just to reach a waterfall. My tailbone’s untouchable, skin that’s met a stove on “high,” stuck to burners, won’t release. Don’t lift my gown. Don’t draw up plans for fixing what’s unfixable. Doctors aren’t a talisman, no matter how we trust the scalpels staged between their fingertips. A fickle god is running things and we are not. Go read a poem— zero in on periods I typed in bold in giant font. Remember how my smile curved in crescent moons. Remember my blueberry eyes.

poetryrepairs #229 16,10:112

The Sex-Ed Class in 1966

Hoover School had never held a Sex-Ed class. The subject arrived much like trains that skip the tracks on a bad, bad curve, taking out a long, long row of Poplar trees. Dead in the middle of a budget meeting, with the principal staring at numbers on a sheet, Mrs. Foster, our school nurse, snatched the silence with her tongue, then said with force: "We need to toe the line. Schools in all the bigger cities incorporate a Sex-Ed class into their curriculums, so this is a necessary step to take." Mr. Edgewood, the school's VP, slid his chair, well, more like tumbled flights of stairs. "We need to do a what?" he said. Over went his water glass. Then three more: the history teacher's, then came math, English too. The circular table became a pool, where paperwork was floating like a stack of lifejackets meant to be on people who can't swim. A little too appropriate. The music teacher's face went pale. Miss Graves, the only spinster in the group, was always pale, but not the Ivory Soap brand kind of white. Even the science pro, despite his trail of classes in anatomy, preferred discussing skeletons, preferred inhaling a jar of formaldehyde with three dead frogs to going near this ticking bomb. He'd dissect any creature, anything but this. "We have to tell their parents first," said Jones, knowing that they'd come and go with fiery tongues, like ravens in a Hitchcock film. Finally, the debut class was set for a Friday afternoon, six weeks down the road. In the process of setting this up, three secretaries bit the dust. The last one said, "I'll die before I'll listen to 'Hello, Michelle, what the hell is happening'… fifteen times every hour." What followed it was not exactly welcome wagons parked along 7th Street. This "secret" was discussed so much that all us kids grew curious enough to miss a recess without complaint, in order to fit the lecture in that afternoon. We even agreed to stay late at school. This was rare. Consensus was we'd take the lash of Dad's old belt over missin' that god-send of a We were the sixth-grade Guinea pigs. Our only course involving health was a firm reminder not to sneak a Milky Way Bar just before lunch. That was it. The teachers broke the news like a teenage girl, scared to death to tell her parents, "I got knocked up by accident"— held back any other info remotely related to the topical choice. We were nervous, fidgeting, without a clue concerning why. We'd all heard of sex before. They held the class in the darkest corner of the student cafeteria, hoping sounds of clinking silverware and plates would distract us from the matter at hand, which it did but not for long. Mrs. Foster promised she'd lead the first round of what came to be known as this that stuff, which no one wished to talk about. She called in sick. "I'll do it," said our football coach. The faculty lounge collapsed like two-ton bodies in a bean bag chair. "Thank God," a dozen voices chimed. "At 6ft.5 you can handle anything," said Jones. It started out with eerie, leaking silences, printed handouts, neatly stacked, set in front of every chair, as if us kids weren't sittin' there. Boys and girls in the same room, divided by a stretching tabletop. Big mistake.Very, very big mistake. We had eye contact from the start, so the boys began with corny winks, moved on to thumb wrestling, then to elbows meet with ribs, then fake farts, repeatedly. "You guys are gross," Melissa said. The ditto chorus held its own. Coach Jones looked just like my dad after a long day of yardwork under a broiling sun. He needed a beer, same as my dad after he'd mowed an acre of lawn and taken out three sprinkler heads. I knew the look, followed by our step-mom's words: "You missed a spot right here, see it there? – another one down there, see it too? – another one along the side of the house. I saw weeds, seven, count 'em, seven weeds when I was checkin' on your job." My Uh Oh! button just got pushed. Just the grass was missin' from this swelling room. Dripping sweat was present and accounted for. When Coach Jones said, "Knock it off and I mean now!" the air grew still as corridors in some museum. Handouts sat like peanut butter dryin' in a mouse trap underneath the kitchen sink, where no one ever bends to look. "Let's get started," said our coach. "We're here today to…(silence gap) to…" sounded pretty similar to greetings at a funeral mass. The boys went back to elbowing. Jones recovered, finally: "…to talk about how males and females (married ones) make their kids, discuss the body parts involved and how the process works. He was going straight from notecards now; after all, his mind was frozen stiff. The words themselves moved awkwardly—kids with brand new sets of stilts they didn't have an inkling for. All he thought was, "God, please pull a magic trick, make this hour disappear." There it stayed. Staunch as Page one was easy, pictures of a skeleton, with arrows pointed at the pelvic cage. Page two grew worse. Thank the Lord, they didn't have colored ink, just textbook pages copied off in black and white. "Boys, listen up, this is where what's known as sex, intercourse to be precise, actually begins. Your pee-wee is responsible." Bobbie Bilger, the smartest smart-ass in the class, immediately corrected him: "Pee-wee's a football game for little tykes; I think you're talkin' pee- pee here." Jones acquiesced, coughing out the penis word, then moved on. A sea of crimson faces switched on bright enough to paint the walls. "Balls on guys are testicles. They store the sperm." "What's that?" Amanda asked with quite convincing innocence. "Well, it's fluid that leaves the penis, crawls inside you, bonds with eggs you have up here (pointed near a uterus), and makes a baby, just like that!" He really wanted just like that to finish off the afternoon, no luck in sight. Badger Bilger stole the show. "The story isn't over yet. All you chicks have vaganinas that open up; that's where we play; trust me, guys, it's no cruddy veggie bin with broccoli or cauliflower you wouldn't touch with the end of a broom. It's a lot of fun in there, at least that's what my cousin said. The fluid has a lot worms and one of them grabs an egg, latches on and won't let go. Ya' have to get the chick in bed, plop yourself on top of her, cram your pee- pee (called a dick, by anyone who knows their stuff) up inside her; then you pound and pound away like hammers on a 2x4, until you feel a giant squirt." Coach Jones said, "Bobby Bilger, that is quite enough from you! He shut his mouth, but all the boys were giggling, considering this brand new hobby right before their twinkling eyes. "No way, José," Nessa said, "That would HURT!" Betsy and Melissa, Sally, right on down the line of girls, all grabbed their crotches in defense. Betsy said, "Go lay an egg and leave me be." Even though the hour was still near 2nd inning, poor Coach Jones was sure he'd lost the game for good. Everything he'd said so far turned thatch roofs in a hurricane. "Oh my God! in more than plural shot through walls from snoopy teachers just outside the door— ears to paint, listening for every word. The woman sorting silverware turned her head, lost it laughing, snorted some, then left the room to save her job. Jones went on explaining fallopian tubes and how a uterus holds a child. Even tried to bring up the "protection" issue called a condom, showed them one. With shaking hands, he tore the package and the rubber—yet another lead balloon. This lecture wasn't going well. The shooting match was warming up. "Touch my pinkie, Bobbie B, I'll kick your balls across the street," Bessie said. "I will too, "Amanda added. Crystal joined the chorus line: "Keep your pee-pee in your pants, then catch it in the zipper threads every time you take a leak, for all I care." Bessie added, "When your balls fly down the street, I'll boot 'em in the muddy ditch." "So will I," Mary said, "Either that or I'll use 'em for a tennis ball. My serve is harder than you think. Just yesterday, I aced my dad. I practiced lobs. Remember this: the higher the lob, the harder it hits when ball meets land on concrete slabs." Thankfully, the hour was almost over. Jones looked at his watch, lied a little—well, a lot—let 'em go. This poor guy was really lickin' his paws. The notecards gave him paper cuts. When us kids were safely on the bus, he headed to the faculty lounge for coffee and a cigarette. "No Smoking" signs did not exist, "Thank God," again. Edgewood snatched a seat beside him, asked him how his debut went. "Whiffle ball and I lost" was all our coach could muster up. "I forgot to tell them not to try out sex until they're much, much older than they are." The history teacher grabbed a chair: "Worry not. Worry not. I think that hour poisoned any lurking hormones in those gals. Give 'em a year, maybe less—you'll have the first all-girls football team in fifty states. Their kick-offs will be killers in the 1st degree. Not to mention, offense, defense. All you have to work on is their running speed.

poetryrepairs #229 16,10:112


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