(I don’t like essays so I wrote a poem.)
Okay, here’s the thing.
If they don’t want you to jump up
and touch things,
then why—I mean why—
do they put them right in front of your face?
Right where you can see them?
Right where you can read the message written all over them,
or hear the little sing-songy voice that seems to taunt you:
“You can’t touch me! You can’t touch me!”
’Cause then I just have to say,
“Oh yes I can.”
Take the other day.
I’m walking down the hall between classes.
And I see up ahead of me, sticking out from the wall,
not far below the ceiling,
One of those big round ones,
high on walls,
that they put all over the school
to keep kids from being late.
So anyway, this clock and I are old friends.
It was one of the first things I jumped up and touched
when I first came to this school in sixth grade.
It’s so easy to touch that I hardly ever even bother anymore.
But I usually look up and smile at it when I go by,
as if to say: “You know just as well as I do that—
if I wanted to—
I could jump up there and touch your face,
The clock, of course, never says anything,
though if I’m late,
I can hear it humming,
which is what it does
just before the second hand clicks onto the twelve.
And if you look at the clock just right,
with the fluorescent light sort of angling in,
you can see my fingerprints all over it.
They clean it in the summer,
so it takes me about a week to get my prints
back where they belong,
which is all over the face of the clock.
So anyway … today …
I saw somebody else’s prints up there.
You’re wondering … how I could tell, right?
I mean, prints are prints are prints …
or are they?
You see, I could tell they weren’t mine
because—I almost hate to confess this—
because they were higher on the clock than mine!
I took that as a challenge.
Somebody had put his mark up there,
as if to say: “Here. See if you can top this.”
Dogs do that, you know,
on trees and fire hydrants
trying to spray as high as they can
so the next puppy that trots along
will smell it and think,
“Man, there’s a big dog around here
Red flags bother bulls.
Bees scare my little brother.
Worms worry my little sister.
Bad grades set off my mom.
And my dad.
And high fingerprints on a clock
ring my alarm.
And so I dropped my books,
right there on the floor.
I reached in my pocket,
pulled out a pen,
quickly colored the tips of fingers two and three
of my right hand.
(Pointer and Tall Man.)
Then I started backing up a little,
to get a running start.
I didn’t even bother to look behind me,
just kept my eyes fixed on those new smudges
on that old clock.
Kids all around me were stopping to see.
They could tell what was up.
Some of them started chanting:
“My-KULL! My-KULL! My-KULL!”
I hardly heard them.
When I was far enough back,
I started jogging,
like a high-jumper
and then I was sprinting.
The faces of kids lining the walls
were nothing but blurs as I blazed by.
And then I left the ground,
maybe higher than I ever did,
maybe higher than any kid ever did in the whole history of clock-touching.
I sort of saw you as you came out of the teachers’ lounge,
but by then I was airborne,
and I didn’t really care anyway.
like I had wings,
a hummingbird, floating on air,
like I was jumping on the surface of the moon.
I sort of paused there a minute,
looking the clock right in the face—
even old friends look different up close, you know—
and then I reached out—
and touched the top of the twelve
with my ink-blue fingers,
leaving two perfect prints.
Then drifted back to earth
and this detention room.