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A Secret Scribble Song
by Derek Kannemeyer

At 17, I came down with disaffection and the mumps.

The former set in slowly, and it lingered.
A moonlight ailment, it manifested in long walks to nowhere,
the streetlamps in monkish rows bowing to bless me as they thinned:
We pronounce you boy and darkness, you may kiss.

The latter got me out of an exam I would have failed.
(Chemistry. I failed it later.)
For ten days I lay there, wearing about my neck
its amusing jowls, like a fat suit for a play, in which I might play,

oh, who knew, but someone else, please. And I read. I liked to read.
To travel somewhere I wasn’t, into some skin not mine.
Yet in every photo—here’s me with the mumps—I look so jolly.
At 17, except to My Secret Scribble Books, I lied well.

And except to Rob Polk, who visiting, took this shot.
At school, there was a club, the Future Suicides Club,
of which we two were all the members. That we knew of.
Where we confided we’d be dead by 21, and winced, and laughed.

But 17 passed, and neither one of us did.
By 21, it was another country, inaccessible, unimaginable.
Oh, yes, I might say now, 17, I spent a year there once! As the 17
year olds in my classroom, some of them (who knew which

of them) with the noxious bloat of it invisible about their necks,
mock my attempts at the language, and wince, and laugh.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me at 17, in bed with the mumps.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A horribly embarrassing age! Rob claimed to be braiding a noose out of the shed strands of his girlfriend’s hair. There’s a cartoon I drew in one of my Scribble Books of a stabbed, dying man playing tic-tac-toe in his blood. I’m so glad I moved away and never went back.

Version 2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: At 17 Derek Kannemeyer lived in Romford, England, but he has spent most of his adult life in Richmond, Virginia. His work has appeared in a wide range of online and print publications.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me in ’17 on a bridge in the park.