“Nobody ever taught me what a dangling modifier was”

“Nobody ever taught me what a dangling modifier was”

She took off points
for a dangling modifier?
A dangling modifier?
What does that even mean?

I scoff in pre-acceptance disdain:
Maybe I wanted my modifier to dangle…

then in insulted indignance:
And why is she commenting on my dangling modifier anyway?

And it continues. I cannot turn away;
just like that time I saw the neighborhood dog
on the mailman’s leg.
I imagine my face mirrors Fido’s:
intense focus and a dash of definance…
Rather than move on,
I inspect meticulously each evaluative mark;
I review each sentence in my composition;
I examine each dismissive abbreviation –
each “sp.”
each “cap.”
and each “awk.”

Red ink pirouettes circles of mockery
around the words I so deftly selected
from the drop-down menu that appeared,
magically, almost supernaturally or mysteriously
See Also: mystically; enchantingly
once I simultaneously pressed the shift and f7 buttons
to reveal the digital thesaurus.

Soon I see nothing else on the paper
but rings of fire,
red burning trails of what my teacher calls formative feedback.

Everything around me is now engulfed in red circles and squiggly underlines:
mailboxes, cars, the crosswalks;
no once-trusted place is safe from the gritty derision of my English teacher’s crimson sword!
Not my childhood treehouse, not the skate park, not even the diner…
Now I am blinded by fury,
and my fury is only outweighed
by my utter confusion.
And confusion turns to self-doubt
turns to incompetence
which all lead to impotence, I’m sure…

How come no one every taught me what a dangling modifier was?
I seek comfort and solace in the family I hold so dearly:

Mom says I should have proofread.
“Nothing ever worth reading is written once.”

Drying the dishes, my sister says:
“I remember learning about grammar – don’t you?”
Her freckled face squinched up emphatically.

From inside the fridge, Dad grabs the steak.
He walks past me, muttering, “dangling modifier…”
shaking his head and chuckling as he walks out to the grill.


A Life Yet Undiscovered

A Life Yet Undiscovered

It’s finally fifth period:
study hall with him

In the sweet solemn whisper of a moment
Right before I see him
(but knowing he’s right around the corner)
I promise myself
I won’t look
I can’t smile

It is a tragic discomfort
Feeling like I want him to kiss me
and feeling like I want to puke

Feeling like no one else in the world exists
and like he’s distracted by so many other people
he can’t even see me

I feel like I have to pretend he doesn’t exist
while I attach his last name to mine
on the side of my math worksheet
in five different fonts
Do I like Mrs.?
Or will I prefer Ms.?

My cheeks warm and flush
as I mentally flip through the
imaginary photo album of
our life yet undiscovered
pictures of prom, college, our wedding, and everything else
all flutter by

It is a distinct shock to my system –
like being suddenly immersed in a bath of ice –
knives jabbing into me all over
as I see him walking towards me
smiling and
holding Jessica’s hand

my hand feels cold and desperate
I hold onto my binder
part shield, part life preserver
and remind myself
there is still so much time
before I can move on
to sixth period

A Mid-Morning Pastoral

A Mid-Morning Pastoral

Through the double-paned window,
I can see rolling fields,
an old oak tree with full canopy.
The bar connecting my desk surface to the chair
holds me in
as I watch the effects of a subtle breeze
lifting and foxtrotting
a discarded leaf.
I know it’s warm and sweet
the kind of mid-morning in late May
when summer is softly peeking
from behind the last weeks of school,
and the dirt is loose and gravelly
just free from the mud.
Somewhere, a kid just like me
is scootering down his street,
similarly different homes lined up along an oak lined street
the shadows and highlights of the sun dappling the ground beneath him.
And somewhere else,
down a hidden dirt path,
past the underbrush of the woods,
right under the flowing branches of a weeping willow,
a kid sits next to his tackle box
mesmerized by the gentle tugging of his fishing line in the river…
And I’m certain that somewhere, there’s a group of kids
“NOT IT”ing just before erupting into a frenzied game of freezetag
and suddenly calling a truce
just long enough to buy rocket pops
after being called by the sweet tinkling tune of the ice cream truck.
It’s the kind of day perfect for
punishing me inside this detention room.

Long Hair is for Bieber Fans

Long Hair is for Bieber Fans

He stomps around in big ol’ boots
Calls ‘em shitkickers
His John Deere shirt is green
And he’s got a camouflage hat
with a ten-point buck on it
swears he’d only wear sumthin he could catch on his own

He wears Carhartt jeans
with oil grease stains on the legs
says they’re proof of hard work
He does work hard
to look like he’s not working hard

He’s got a buzzcut
cuz bangs are for sissies
plus, buzzcuts don’t get caught in a tractor
and long hair is for Bieber fans
and, honestly, guys like him
don’t care how they look.



Blue is not just
the color of my hair.
Blue isn’t a statement.
Blue happened to me;
I didn’t choose it.

I don’t wear black.
Black is my shield;
it protects me from whispered things
I don’t even know about.
Black with steel –
and lace –
is there really a difference between
a compressed bodice
and a bullet-proof vest?

I feel like I was born with this
lip ring.
And these eyes,
the beautiful brown eyes
from my grandmother
allow me to see
deeper –
more deeply
than you’ll ever look
at me.

The Burden of Responsibility

The Burden of Responsibility

I remember sitting in the driver’s seat
when I was 14.
Mom had asked me to start the car
that freezing morning in January,
and I felt like a racecar driver:
the engine rumbled to life,
and I felt so powerful –
like I somehow could make things happen.
I wanted to careen down the highway
at “a buck fifty” like my uncle always said
and listen to all my friends as we laughed
on our way across the state to the beach –
no worries at all.

Last week, I got my license:
“the only test I’ll ever study for.”
The day before me, Ben Waterson,
our class treasurer,
got his license
and a shiny, brand new casket
4 hours later.

These keys are heavy,
and I am some mad scientist bringing to life
something that maybe should stay dormant.
I hate that I can cause so many terrible things.
I feel the burden of responsibility,
like I want to just get home,
so I am no longer a danger –
a roaring box of fire.