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  • High School, and: Ode to My Skinny Legs, and: The Woman in the Wall, and: Unspoken, and: The Italian Garden
  • David Kirby (bio)

High School

    It would have been a joke if prisons were jokes.        We read the usual in English class—Steinbeck,    Hemingway—and our science teachers meant well,but for all they taught us, we might have lived        in the eighteenth century, when universities focused    mainly on theology, and science was conducted

    on weekends by gentlemen with hand-cranked        electrostatic generators and butterfly nets. As far as    social studies, forget it: the teacher scolded mewhen he didn't know who the chief justice was and I did,        and when he tried to say quiet,    it came out quite. Be quite, Kirby! Bertrand and Kirby,

    be quite now! The girls were beautiful.        I was sixteen. Even the plain girls were beautiful.    But they didn't know how to kiss, and I didn't knowhow to teach them. About that time, the folk music        craze hit, and when the Kingston Trio's Close-Up    dropped in October of that year, Al Edwards

    and Bob Spain and I figured the road to glory        was paved with sheet music, and since Al already    owned a guitar and Bob a banjo, that left the bongosto me, it remaining only for our mothers to starch        and iron our look-alike shirts, white half-sleeved    affairs with blue stripes that appeared to be made out

    of the cloth usually reserved for window awnings,        the kind of shirts worn only by hot-dog    vendors and folk singers, meaning they were the kind [End Page 107] the Kingston Trio would have worn had they been us.        After we played our first show in the cafeteria,    four of the bustiest girls in our school ran up

    and squealed, "You sound exactly like the Trio!"        What were they talking about? None of us could    sing at all. We should have practiced moreand squabbled less. The best thing you could say        about us is that we didn't forget any of the words    and that we more or less began and ended together.

    Other than that, we were terrible. I'd never been        happier in my life. We played another dozen dates    or so, and then Al's uncle proposed he take uson the road for the summer to play in the school gyms        of towns so isolated that people who couldn't make it    to Vicksburg or Montgomery to hear real musicians

    might actually pay to hear us. But our mothers said no;        they gave no reasons, but I'm guessing    they saw us falling into the clutches of hard women, desperatesmall-town divorcées who'd introduce us to cigarettes,        underage drinking, and worse. I wanted worse.    I wanted to kiss an older woman, somebody

    who was twenty-eight, say, even thirty, a blond        in capri pants and heels, her top sliding off    one shoulder, her smoky breath in my faceand then her lips on mine like a hot wind, the one desert dwellers        call samoon, which means poison    because others drop dead at its approach, but not me,

    who is wrapped by it, lifted, my mouth sprung        by a kiss like lightning, a flash that spreads and spreads    and stays as I feel each thing that willhappen in my life from this moment on, the way those wrecked        and underwater follow a train of images    until they sink, and the darkness returns, and they're free. [End Page 108]

Ode to My Skinny Legs

When you look up "man of parts," you get the eighteenth-century definition    of that term, meaning someone who is capable in multiple endeavors,though if you look up "woman of parts," you get a lot of websites    dealing with anatomy. Very unfair! as the president of the United Stateswould say. And not just the president: anyone can see that it never was,

is not, and never will be right to define men by their big brains    and women by their bodies, not that brains aren't body parts."Everybody loves their own body," I heard a woman say recently,    and the man who...


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