Jennifer Schomburg Kanke


When they initiated me in the gang, I almost died.
Leaves of three, let it be. I never saw the whole plant,
was handed one leaf and told to hold it tight.

I broke out the next day, but I didn't blame
the other girls (much). It should have been an elm leaf.
The point wasn't to give me poison ivy, just to see

if I was willing to get it. The tough ones know a little Clorox
and water will dry it up and have no fear.
Out of school for a week, I squinted

at a Popeye coloring book, while the gang learned long division
and hopped the back fence of the playground.
Did they find old Playboys and moldy cartons of Marlboro Reds?

Did they find used condoms and crushed cans of Busch?
The graveyard our brothers had warned us about? The one deep in the woods,
across the creek where Headless Maggie and Bloody Mary

and my mom's friend Barb were buried, where good girls went
and bad girls returned, where fifteen couples could fit behind
one sepulcher. When the whistle blew and feet landed back

on the safe and solid school grounds, Ms. Reed waited. They got
a month of indoor only recess while I showed my healing skin
to the boys playing dodge ball, still not knowing what lay on the other side.

Jennifer Schomburg Kanke recently received her PhD and currently works as a visiting professor at Florida State University. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Fugue, and Court Green.

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