Different Men

schoolDifferent Men


much of my youth drifted as

days and days of sun snow rain wind

nights of books clouds windows sheets beds

dreams of what the future would bring

I imagined my adult self

always moving outward onward

and never looking back to these places

these streets corner stores schools

class rooms blackboards


Grade IV

Graham’s sudden bare belly

scratched absent minded

before my wide eyes

he pulls up his striped tee-shirt

rubs that belly

firm round more pink than white

more flesh than boy

more glimpsed than looked at


erasers chalk  furnace rooms  boilers

pieces of jumbled recollection

the walks home

the heavy books of knowledge

that were easier to sit on than to read

easier to refer to than to study

that didn’t show much

that wasn’t to be seen

their images of the future

30’s stream lined

50’s under lined

60’s earning lines

we never did get cars that fly

anti-gravity boots

I never got to see more of Graham

than that scratch of belly one day

while we waited for Mrs Melinosh

to handed out tests

she reminded me

to pay attention young man

ma’am I was certainly paying attention

but I didn’t understand what that attention was

what was it Graham’s belly told me then

[between the shadow falls the foreskin?]


that was in the school at the bottom of the hill

too steep to climb in winter

too icy

my Dad would be there to drive me home

I would rattle on about things

my lack of attention

but not about that belly

only happy to have my Dad

pick me and take me home

up that hard slippery slope

I told about arithmetic spelling

while seeing that t-shirt ride up

that freckle face smile

red haired boy


the drive was because we had moved

a new school was to start soon


with fewer problems for me

those attention problems

my eyes would wander out the window

at the squeak of chalk

my mind would get fuzzy

as division got longer and longer

the days got colder and colder

the boys got meaner and meaner

my eyes got less focused


I find myself now decades later

still as unsure of the lesson

but positive about the image

the belly’s inexpressible tease

I knew wasn’t for my Dad’s ears

that told me for the first time

my Dad and I were different men


This is a memory poem written with a kind of dream logic flow of word images almost a list poem. The image of Graham is very real – as is the name – I can still see the actual class room where this moment happened. The tee-shirt had narrow stripes, more like lines alternating shades of blues. He was a red head.

Colby School, grade 4 or 5. The building has since been torn down & a modern one replaced it. We students would look into the boiler room at recess & talk to the custodian. The Books of Knowledge was an encyclopedia set – red covers – I once brought a volume to school & sat on it as there was no where to put it. The teacher mocked me saying knowledge couldn’t be absorbed that way.


I was reading Kelmo, a British, boys scifi series my Welsh aunts sent me – it had illustrations of flying cars. Tom Swift, Jules Verne books that I read to take me out of reality. I remember feeling I would never be as smart as Tom Swift – even my fictional hero made me feel inadequate.


We moved mid-term but I stayed at Colby until the end of the school year – then I was enrolled in the closer Ashby School. But while I was a Colby my Dad would sometimes pick me up as the school was at the end of a long steep hill. My inability to pay attention, stay focused went undiagnosed so perhaps it wasn’t as bad as I recollect. So there wasn’t this need to cure me – to label & I’m grateful I didn’t get the help I might have needed because the help then was more like sticking ‘troubled’ kids into special ed. Even worse for some, as I later found out – queer teens were given shock treatment to fix their diseased brains.


This is one of the early pieces I wrote about those memories & the realizations I didn’t realize until I was writing about them as memories. In other poems I talk about similar issues – the inability to articulate desire yet feeling that desire. I love the line: “more glimpsed than looked at.”



November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo




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