A Small Awakening

But first, let me get one thing straight:
I didn't even know I'd done it.

* * *
There was giggling, there was pointing,
a bunch of sophomores gawking.
And it was all coming at me.

I went on to class, head scratching.

In the room, there it was again —
a couple of classmates grinning,
a couple more shaking their heads.

I turned to the girl next to me.
What is going on? What's the joke?
She whispered: the yearbook is here.

Then I recalled that conscience pang:
the class officers photograph,
the picture I shouldn't be in.

High-school peer-pressure politics
ramming candidates through by force.
I was one of the unworthy.

I turned to my classmate again.
The senior officers picture?
She nodded, giggled, and turned pink.

But my regret couldn't be the cause;
that would be shame shame, not blush blush.

The official handing-out came
and I received my own copy.
I flipped quickly, turning pages
to the class officers photo.

There I was, front row, on the end.
There I was, kneeling and smiling.
There I was, hand draped over knee.
There I was, giving the finger.

Was it a trick of the shadows?
Just the way my fingers dangled?
Whatever, the bird indeed flew
in black and white, for all to see.

I turned to one of the grinners
and said: I didn't mean to do that.
In reply I got an eye roll
and a pointed sure-you-didn't smirk.

Okay, I thought: that's how it is;
people will believe what they will.
And no amount of denial
will dislodge the misconception.

Looking again, I saw glances,
some sidelong glances of respect,
the kind bestowed upon rebels.
And that left a little tingle
and that little tingle felt good.

So, if I kept on denying
— but maybe with a hinted laugh,
So, if I left things unspoken
— but maybe with a tiny grin,
I could find out what it was like
to wade at that dark water's edge.

Harry W. Yeatts Jr.