- The night you bury your father you hope he will visit your dreams
but apparently there’s a final exam in biology. When did you sign up for biology?
Fluorescent bulbs flicker, lockers shimmer like kelp in a film by Jacques Cousteau,
who invented the aqualung but couldn’t waive the final exam. Outside trees by Van Gogh
waver. You need help, and your larynx is on the fritz. Why can’t you remember
registering for biology? What exactly were the prerequisites? (There was nothing, nothing,
then boom — there you were, in the middle of testing Newton’s third law with a neighbor,
both of you two and not yet up to speed on the biomechanics of locomotion.)
A raccoon — clearly your brother — interrupts the freight train of thought to rent you
the Indian Ocean. Then snow and your mother roars up in a Mustang, blaring Van Morrison.
You’re certain the brakes are broken, but you can’t shout, she can’t hear you
moaning. Then stars and you’re staring at this jar. Then calm and you’re in some room [End Page 51]
with a cut-out moon, and it’s time. The exam has only one question: After death,
what is our phylum? You know this! — yet you’re still sunk: all quarter
you also cut Latin. The paper falls hard from your hand, there’s the bell,
you blink to the surface. You hold your father’s face in mind as best you can.
Wind scatters leaves across the yard. [End Page 52]
B. T. Shaw lives, works, and eats pie in Portland, Oregon. Her first collection, This Dirty Little Heart (Eastern Washington University Press, 2008), is not quite out of print.