Junior Year
by David Mathews

“we welfare kids could travel…”
—Junot Diaz on playing Dungeons & Dragons

The Dead Milkmen—
          gospel of my attitude & angst.

Supermarket bowtied bagger
after school.
                    A nearby laundromat had a Castlevania machine.
I’d go smash some shit with a morning star—
an extension of my avatar’s arm until my quarters ran out.

          Using Chicago’s Northwest Side alleys
like the back roads of thieves. Sneaking
sips of booze & finding junk treasure.

                    Shy but still smitten by
                         new wave daughters of Artemis
                              & headbanger shield-maidens of Odin.

                              Wearing their black nail polish way before
                                        Reality TV housewives knew its power.
Secretly I rolled 20-sided di.
Fighting chaotic evil demon lords.
Severing the heads with vorpal weapons
          of those that swim in darkness.

          Wishing I had bags of infinite holding of my own—
                    opening to a non-dimensional space.

Hiding the fact my gym shoes
          brought at the outlet store
                    just before the school year
                              had holes I had to live with.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I was never in one group, but I hung out a lot with the headbangers. They wanted a picture of headbangers for the yearbook and somehow I ended up in it dead center. (1990 yearbook, junior year.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I saw the “ME, AT 17” prompt, I almost made the mistake of trying to make my version of an “Ode to a Grecian Urn.” But the 17-year-old I was is not trapped in time unchanged—I hope not—I’d like to think he keeps me company.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Mathews earned his MA in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Eclectica Magazine, After Hours, CHEAP POP, One Sentence Poems, OMNI Reboot, Word Riot, Silver Birch Press, The Ghazal Page, and Midwestern Gothic. His poetry was nominated for The Best of The Net and has received awards from the Illinois Women’s Press and the National Federation of Press Women. He lives in his hometown of Chicago where he teaches and writes.