My understanding of women

began in middle school

that’s when I got interested

that’s when things changed

I started to notice their jeans

slipping down

ever so slightly

their pink underwear


at the edges of heaven.

All of my teachers thought I was cute

a naughty boy

who wanted to be good

My English Teacher

who was missing her middle-finger

(because she slammed it in a door

when she drove truck)

liked to read her science-fiction stories

to the class

and her students laughed at her

Then she sent them outside

and they started smiling

and she sent them out again

It was just me, and the bus driver’s daughter

We were the best students in school

and Mrs. Brunette walked next to me and said, “Andy—you’re trying to do well, but I can see that you’re about to smile.”

but I stayed in class, anyway

and I sucked that smile in, like it was the joy of the world

and I argued with her, for my 105%.

I think it made her smile inside

I have always been the “good” little boy

who wanted to do right.


“Coach, which is right field?” I asked.

Anybody could hear the desperation in my voice.

I played sports because my sister played them.

She taught them to me. “Andy—don’t be afraid of the ball.”

I always felt anxious—in front of people. Then someone would hit a pop-fly, and I would make a miraculous catch.

I had the miracle glove that year, and my coach told me—”You’re almost an MVP.”

“Andy wants to play pitcher,” my friend said.

Coach, shook his head. He knew I would crack under pressure.

Even the smallest amount of stress, like knowing where to go and what to do, made me anxious.

Not much has changed.

I was the MVP of my middle school basketball team. Then I graduated to varsity, and my coach was a tall black man. He could tell, I couldn’t take the pressure.

Good coaches have an instinct.

We got to the championship game, and one of our best players forgot his jersey. “Here—take mine,” I said.

“Now, that’s a teammate,” my coach suggested, but he didn’t realize I was a coward—or, maybe he did.

I thankfully sat on the sidelines—totally relaxed, and watched the game—right where I wanted to be. We lost, and I didn’t feel bad.

I won the Cougar Award that season, for sportsman-like-conduct—the most coveted trophy, but I was a coward, and the whole team voted me in.

I never lost at anything in middle school.

Sometimes, losers win—

but you always know who you are

and that’s more important than trophies.


I was “smart” in middle school

it was a time of great beginnings

Mrs. Chastagner started a chess tournament

and later, I found out we had the same birthday

She was one of the school secretaries

and she liked me

Her son played on the basketball team, and he was the leader

Funny—your reputation develops—not by being close to popular students

but by being your own person

and doing your own thing

I have never done anything else.

So, when I signed up for the chess tournament

I did it, because I liked chess, and I liked to win

Most of all—I liked to think

At basketball practice, Evan’s mom walked over to me

“He’s worried about you—he thinks you’ll win.”

I was a quiet kid, and I won.

The stakes got higher. I was playing with an eighth grader who had pimples, wore the same clothes every day, and ate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for lunch. Occasionally, he had nachos. I watched him shove the chocolate and cheese sauce into his mouth.

Then, I won.

The last kid I played, all four semesters in middle school, became my mortal enemy, because, I beat him, every game, and took the championships.

In 9th grade, he told me that he was going to beat me at everything

He lost.

I became a winner, in middle school

7th and 8th grade were the most important years

I have always been playing chess

in life.

6 thoughts on “3 Poems about middle school

  1. I played chess a lot in school as well and represented our school team. I always liked playing the best and older players at lunch time and they always won and I even still lose to this day, but I rarely play now. But Chess taught me a lot as I imagine it did you. I loved reading your stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your mini stories are good to read. This one reminds me, when i was in middle school i played for a church basketball league. I was unbelievably bad. Only made one basket the entire season, during the final game. BOTH teams cheered for that basket. so embarrassing haha,

    Liked by 1 person

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