what you’d find buried in the dirt under charles f. kettering sr. high school (detroit, michigan)

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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.



blood: 

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 

venereal disease

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. 

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.

 

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