Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shahé Mankerian: We Broke Rulers to Avenge Our Bleeding Knuckles

They shove us in line
to investigate. My blue uniform
feels tight, stiff. It’s only Monday

morning; I wonder
if they’ll catch us by Friday
afternoon. I can’t wiggle

my toes in my uncle’s hand-
me-down shoes; he sells
vinyl records near the bridge.

I hum “Dancing Queen”
to distract myself from
the probing eye of the principal.

Mother made me
eat two boiled eggs
this morning; I taste leftovers

tucked between the gaps of
my teeth. I close my eyes
to review the stupid poem

I memorized the night before.
They could never read
my heart—we broke

rulers as altar boys when
we played hooky from church.
We removed the window

screen that separated the alley
from the classroom. On Sundays
we were kings, but today

we’re questioned,
threatened. They pull
my sideburns, but I don’t care.

I would die first. They can
give me one thousand poems
to memorize, one million standards

to write over and over: “I will not
break rulers. I will
not break rulers.

I will not break

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