(taut jeans dancing)

An Anthology of Poetry about Being Young and Growing Up
Table Of Contents
Acknowledgments & Links



Carmen Tafolla

when I dream dreams, I dream of YOU, Rhodes Jr. School and the lockers of our minds that were always jammed stuck or that always hung open and would never close, no matter how hard You tried. we messed up the looks of the place and wouldn't be neat and organized and look like we were sposed to look and lock like we were sposed to lock. yea that's right I dream of you degrees later and from both sides of the desk my dreams take place in your two-way halls, HallGuards from among us, human traffic markers, bumps on the road between the lanes, to say, when we were sposed to say, where to turn left, where right. and how to get where you were going-- ("You'll never get to high school speakin' Spanish," I was told) [nice of them, they thought, to not report me, breakin' state law, school law, speakin' dirty (speakin' Spanish) and our tongues couldn't lump it and do what they were sposed to do. So instead I reminded others to button buttons and tuck shirttails in.] I never graduated to a Cafeteria Guard, who knew how they were picked. We thought it had something to do with the FBI or maybe the Principal's office. So we got frisked, Boys in one line, Girls in another, twice every day entering lunch and leaving Check - no knives on the boys. Check - no dangerous weapons on the girls (like mirrors, perfume bottles, deodorant bottles, or teased hair.) So we wandered the halls cool chuca style "no se sale" and unawares, never knowing other junior highs were never frisked never knowing what the teachers said in the teachers lounge never knowing we were (sposed to be) the toughest junior high in town. And the lockers of our minds are now assigned to other minds, carry other books, follow other rules, silence other tongues, go to other schools-- Schools of Viet Nam Schools of cheap cafe, Schools of dropout droppings, prison pains, and cop car's bulleted brains. Marcelino thought the only way to finance college was the Air Force (GI Bill and good pay!) War looked easy (compared to here) Took his chances on a college education, Took his pay on a shot-down helicopter in a brown-skinned 'Nam, with a pledge of allegiance in his mind he had memorized through Spanish-speaking teeth as a Hall Guard. "clean-cut", Now cut clean down in a hospital ward, paralyzed below the lips, that still speak Spanish slowly. Silvia thought no one had the right to tell her what to do. One year out of junior high, she bitterly bore her second pregnancy, stabbed forks onto cafe tables and slushed coffee through the crowds sixteen hours a day, and she was fifteen and still fighting to say "I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE ME!" Esperanza with a needle in her heart, sucking will, wanting junkies to say "Hey, you're really okay." And Lalo with a mind that could write in his sleep growing epics from eyes that could dream now writes only the same story over and over until the day that it's all over, as he's frisked and he's frisked and he's frisked and they keep finding nothing and even when he's out his mind is always in prison Like Lupe's mind that peels potatoes and chops repollo and wishes its boredom was less than the ants in the hill and never learned to read because the words were in English and she was in Spanish. I wonder what we would do Rhodes Junior School, if we had all those emblems of you stamped on our lives with a big Red "R" like the letter sweaters we could never afford to buy. I keep my honorary junior school diploma from you right next to the B.A., M.A., etcetera to a Ph. D. because it means I graduated from you and when I dream dreams, --how I wish my dreams had graduated too.

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