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Grade Eight

I dream of Jason swinging his arm around my shoulders,
whispering something wonderful.
At thirteen he throws away his violin
and jingles girlfriends like loose change.

At recess my friends and I make fun of all the popular
girls with their highlighted hair and pierced ears.

In the hallway Jill and her new breasts
eclipse talk of football.
And flat chested Annie is still in the cool crowd
but slipping.

When Rob complains his balls itch and
wonders if one of us girls would like to scratch them
Cathy looks puzzled and asks, You have more than one?

At lunch I try to make my dreams come true
reciting the alphabet, twisting my apple stem,
forcing it to break at J,
the first letter of my true love’s name.

Biking down Fifth Avenue, I wonder what life is like
inside those houses the size of banks
with bonsai trees shaped like geometry lessons
and white fenced backyards with turquoise pools.
Susan says she has no tan lines.

For grade eight graduation I stand far away from Susan
whose dress is exactly like mine
but she looks like Farrah Fawcett
and I some wanna-be.
I ask Bobby LaRue to dance,
he declines, he’s some odd religion and isn’t allowed.
I don’t believe him. I gulp the gym air, squeeze my eyes shut
and in my mind cross myself like a Catholic would for luck.
I ask Jason, when he looks at me I feel like math homework.
Sure, he says, let me finish my Coke.
I sit, silently humming Stairway to Heaven,
the song almost gone when he nods.

Cheryl Denise grew up in Elmira, Ontario. She earned a nursing degree at Conestoga College in Guelph, Ontario. This poem is from her newest collection, What’s in the Blood (DreamSeeker Books, 2012). For three years she worked as a volunteer through the Mennonite Church as a public health nurse in La Jara, Colorado. Now she and her husband live in the intentional community of Shepherds Field in West Virginia. The community raises Jacob sheep and a small flock of chickens. They produce and sell lambs, yarn, and soft, beautiful wool blankets. Cheryl works as a nurse supervisor for in-home care services for elderly and disabled persons. Her poetry collection, I Saw God Dancing, was the winner of the 1998 West Virginia Writers Poetry Competition.  Her poetry has appeared in various literary journals and publications including the anthologies Wild Sweet Notes: Fifty Years of West Virginia Poetry 1950-1999 (Publishers Place, Inc., 2000) and Coal: A Poetry Anthology (Blair Mountain Press, 2006).