the march of those other kids

Straight to the music room, Mister we were told

In a tone which brooked no argument.

Having reached the fourth grade, we were eligible

To join the band–or, once it was determined there was

A shortfall in baritones and bass clarinets,

We were likely candidates to be dragooned by the band teacher,

Ageless, cat-eyed, and chain-smoking termagant

Who, as old and foreboding as the Ancient Mariner himself,

Only retained one in three for her ensemble.

 

To deviate from our proscribed path would involve wandering

Into the wing where those other kids were;

At least, we assumed they were children,

As they were shuffled off to lunch and recess and gym

At times and by routes ensuring that we rarely if ever laid eyes upon them,

And as far as we knew, the large room at the end of a narrow, crooked hall

Could have housed goats or orangutans. Anyway, it was inferred

That wandering there would result in our being beaten or kidnapped

Or perhaps worse; as Nicky von Demmer

(A year older than we were, having been held back a year

For some reason or another, and every bit as profane

As any sailor or trucker) would say, You go down there,

And those bug-eatin’ boogerheads will puke on you

Or piss on you or both, or maybe

He would say, grinning his standard-issue evil-bastard grin,

Maybe they’ll just keep you.

 

There came a time in the late Spring of the year

When, for no reason we could divine, we were instructed

To play our songs and flub our notes as quietly as possible,

The dynamics all pianissimo, the drums played with brushes.

We found out later that, when the band played

And the volume went above a certain level, one of the kids

In the other wing would go into crying, shaking, and spinning hysterics

(Apparently any noise which was loud enough would bring this on,

So it was not due solely to the amateurish nature

Of our musicianship). After a few weeks, were allowed

To engage in bass drums and sousaphone bombast

Once more—it turns out that the youngster in question

Was whisked off to a more appropriate environment

(It’s not like he was headed to Yale, anyway,

I overheard one teacher say), and, over the summer break,

The district installed thick, lockable doors which worked so well

That they wondered why it had taken them so long

To come up with such an elegant solution.

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2 thoughts on “the march of those other kids

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