What I Remember from High School - Joanne Tasker

rape jokes
and everyone laughs
what’s funny
is sex-ed didn’t teach us 
about consent

we blow condoms up 
like balloons 
look for answers in a word-find
circle the word penis 
with a penis
when I hadn’t even seen one

bathroom sex
she lost her virginity 
on a Motorola flip-phone
pass it around 
for show and tell 

depression has a thirst
that makes her wrists bleed
she’s learning to hide her misery 
in long-sleeves 

arsonists 
students armed with Lynx 
and a lighter 
did you know you can set fire to a window?
burnt glass reeks of melted plastic
stains like aged rust

fight or flight
I learned that I freeze
a girl’s hair is pulled tight 
like a noose
I could reach her 
but my feet don’t move 

there is a gunman 
in a meth lab up the road
we hear an alarm and line up on the field
like ducks in a row

three suicides 
but they weren’t my friends
I know more about how they took their lives
then I’ll ever know about them

at graduation they parade me across the stage
hold me high like a trophy
lay claim to my accomplishments 
as if they exist because 
rather than in spite of

high school taught me that
handshakes and smiles can be weapons
like a piece of rope or a razorblade
and congratulations really means fuck you

so, congratulations
I made it through 

not all of us did.

Contributor's Note

Joanne Tasker is a law student at the University of Waikato with a passion for reading and writing. This poem is her first published work. 

 

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