francine j. harris’s poem, “what you’d find buried in the dirt under charles f. kettering sr. high school (detroit, michigan),” was first published in Michigan Quarterly Review’s Winter 2011 issue.
soaked and caked on white socks, on blue mesh net t-shirts.
the band leader’s blue baton and drum sticks.
matchbook sulfur spilled over newport cigarette butts.
condoms in a few dull shades. tenth-grade chemistry books
modeling atomic fatty acids.
half-sucked orange dum-dums tucked under detention slips.
pictures from black hair cut out for pre-beautician consensus.
broken black glitter belts with pink buckles shaped like lips.
candle wax from last year’s vigil when
de’andre “chucky” brown collapsed in the arms of his
teammate. the teammate’s shoe prints rocking back and forth
where the vigil was held, biting his lip.
broken cellphones. pieces of the black rubber mat
below the entrance way, which we crossed every morning,
teeth clenched. notes of consent that girls wrote, but didn’t mean
and wish they hadn’t passed back.
broken teeth. lost retainers. crumpled letters written to counselors
and discarded for illegible handwriting. phone lists of
abortion clinics. deflated valentine’s day balloons with
trampled white ribbon. sales ads on bassinette sets.
my first boyfriend’s piano scarf. a phyllis hymen
album cover. the path from the
exit door behind the school through which certain boys
would not see certain girls leave.
torn up progress reports.
brass knuckles. two
afro picks on opposite sides of the school. germs on a hall pass
from a boy holding his crotch.
rusty rebar dust. pigeon bones. stolen phone numbers.
d.o.t. bus passes from 1960, the year of the groundbreaking.
suspended driver’s licenses. broken glasses from ice
packed into snowballs. unread pamphlets on
charles f. kettering, a farmer with bad eyesight,
who invented the electric starter
and an incubator for preemies.
possum tails. original scores. balled up journal entries
written and torched, detailing abuses. genital fluids.
dna. envelopes from letters of acceptance
to states far away. math teachers’ stolen answer keys
torn and burned by cigarette lighters.
cigarette lighters. hundreds of mcdonald’s
fries containers because they flatten easily. weed.
imitation diamonds from homecoming tiaras
encrusted in shit-colored mud. research papers on kettering
detailing his treatments for
which involved heating up patients in thermal cabinets
until their body temperatures fevered at 130 degrees.
teachers’ red pen marks on essay papers detailing abuses.
empty sprint cards.
a splint a football captain
was supposed to be wearing but decided made him look gay.
a fat boys tape. pieces of torn blue and white starter jackets
from the way boys wrestled each other
to the ground in spring.
my first poetry journal. pages of its poems
embossed with patterns of early name-brand gym shoes.
crumpled suicide notes written in pencil and scorched with ashes.
lost house keys. pictures of first crushes. bullets.
unpublished articles by frustrated teachers
who briefly looked into research findings,
using the charles f. kettering instrument of school
climate assessment detailing the psychological impact
on students from external stressors normally associated
with adulthood domestic patterns of abuse. fat shoelaces.
bullet casings. a jim beam whiskey flask that the old principal ditched
thinking someone was coming.
my last boyfriend’s lesson plan elaborately structured
on the back
of a comic book. imprints of my mother’s modest heel
from crossing the barren frontal square at my graduation.
free press articles on unnamed minors whose bodies were found
in dumpsters near kettering. the crystallized block formed
from the tissue my father handed me at graduation
for tears i couldn’t explain.
francine j. harris’s poem, “what you’d find buried in the dirt under charles f. kettering sr. high school (detroit, michigan),” was first published in Michigan Quarterly Review’s Winter 2011 issue. Visit Michigan Quarterly Review’s Archive.