I posted a school memory on Monday so here’s another one –





‘don’t bite your nails’   ‘sorry’

I never knew I was biting my nails

till I was told to stop

it kept me from chewing my lower lip

good thing I didn’t have long hair

or I’d have been chewing on that too


I rubbed my eyes

tried to focus on the blackboard

so much to learn   all I could think

was that I’d never learn it all


‘stop biting your nails’   ‘sorry’

I didn’t feel my teeth

try to find a bit of nail

how did it happen

that Mike Kennedy

two rows over

never did things like that

he never got a runny nose

and let it dribble on his tongue

he turned around to say something

to Trevor Steeles behind him

they laughed looked at

Liz Sampson on the other side of me

she stared out the window

as she chewed her hair


the teacher droned on

‘take notes this will be on the exam’

our little pens itched

page after page of big words

all of which would be on the exam


dazed I filled the margins

with small zigzag mazes

when I was trying not to bite my nails

or chew my lower lip bloody

little mazes

that never got me out of this puzzle

I could barely grasp

the writing on the blackboard

a scattering of thin snow on mud

I had to plod through this sludge

to rescue meaning

then I’d be safe

on  the other side of the exams


‘stop biting your nails    you can’t take notes

with your fingers in your mouth’

the class all looked at me    laughing

‘it helps me think’

‘another reason to stop

at your age thinking

is a dangerous thing’

‘yes sir    I’ll never think in your class again’


funny what I could say

when my fingers stopped getting in the way

bluesky blue sky

This is a much older piece than Quel Dommage. Just like the French class in Quel, I can remember some of this moment very clearly. The classroom itself, staring almost trance-like out the window.

It was Economics – I don’t know if this is still taught under this name – we were learning how city politics ‘worked’ – civic, provincial & federal systems. With some history in the mix. Basic info on how the stock market worked.

elasticblueelastic blue

The names of the guys aren’t real. I have no memory of names, almost of some faces though & definitely of guys popping boners and wagging their eyes to pals to take a look at the tent pitched. They’d say ‘thinking of Veronica’ – time I wrote about those memories.

bluefloor blue floor

Part of my daze was the sexual longing I felt but was too fearful to act on. I was picked on in the hallways as ‘a gear box.’ It was easier to look out the window than get caught eyeing some class mates grey flannel bound boner. Oh yes, I remember those pants.

balloon blue balloon


One thought on “Nailed

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