The Girl on the Back Row

Glenda Zumwalt

The second week of classes
the girl on the back row is beginning
to have suspicions: college may be
like the rest of life, a struggle
to keep up, the point lost in a fog
of detail, the matter of fact.
She is the daughter of the hardscrabble South,
this girl, a child of the double negative,
the wrong tense, born of revival and bad faith.
She chews on the end of a strand of wild hair,
watches the teacher pace and gesture, speaking
in tongues, tries to imagine a thesis.

When the bell rings, she dashes, a whirlwind
of boots and jeans, to a rusted out Mustang, rides
wild to her register at Wal Mart, lost in the irony
of "have a nice day." Evenings she goes home
to country music video, hoping to celebrate herself
only to find she has been replaced by women from Cosmo
the girls of Mademoiselle and Seventeen. Thumbing
her economics text, she sighs. Her history baffles her.
Her English assignment makes her cry.
She isn't sure who she is in 500 words
no less, but she wants to tell the truth as she knows it.
She knows it as best she can, this sweet daughter,
her cheeks streaked with blue mascara,of bruised dreams.

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The 2River View, 1_2 (Winter 1997)