by Qiana Towns

I used to be afraid of two things: phantasms and anything,
Real or imagined, with just one eye. Each Tuesday

Night, I go into an anteroom of bullies to teach them
How to mean business. In the back is a class-

Room, real or imagined, filled
With students prepared to learn. The classroom is

Empty save for a SMART Board and a sea of desktops. I remember
Once being proud of myself. Believe me, it happened

In 7th grade science class when I was chosen
To present my research on the death of the sun. I told

My classmates to throw out their solar-powered
Watches if they wanted to live long enough

To make it past high school. They looked at me as if I were
A Cyclops. Truth is, I was the worst science student

The world had ever seen; couldn’t remember
The difference between bases and acids, but I never forgot

How much I loved words or how it felt
To share what I’d learned of truth. Every Tuesday

Night for the past few weeks I’ve gone back
To this memory to find a mental representation of a realer

Reality; I’ve gone back to find a reason to keep talking
To an empty room. I’m afraid of one thing: two-way mirrors.

I’ve stopped testing mascara in the ladies’ room
Near the faculty lounge. Whenever I hear

My colleagues laugh from the other side of the wall,
I assume the joke is on me. This, too, reminds me

Of 7th grade and a girl with a plastic penis
Situated in her jeans. I didn’t understand why

She wasn’t a boy. I tried to make her
My friend, but in the end she turned,

Held me against the teachers’ office window, pressed
Her thumbs into my neck and watched me gasp

And cry. Fear is to 7th grade as Tuesdays
Are to life. I am reading Arrhenius in the sun.

I keep thinking about the future. If I were ever
Wrong then look me in my eye. Tell it to my face.

Published on April 8, 2016