A troop — almost medieval —
came tumbling into our town
to bring us Taming of the Shrew,
the shrew a big girl with cleavage
even the teachers joked about.
That wench is stark mad, or wonderful froward.
She stood in a disc of light
framed by rippling velvet
renown’d for her scalding tongue
in a small town that quit listening long before
her speech of submission, and
muttered filing out, That player liked the play too much.
alive and dangerous.
Hitch-hiking home, my boyfriend and I
stranded in Ravenna
six inches of new snow blurring its streets
only plows and strays out.
the drunk fingering Eric’s hair
we saw our chance at the light
left his doors to hang agape
the guy yelling Hey
git back here you girls!
Our luck: a Kent dorm unlocked
Thanksgiving week. We found the lounge,
made a bed of wet coats.
Now, what do you say if a guard comes?
Say, But this other guard told us we could.
Or fuck it, we’ll both play girls and cry.
After downtown shattered
and the ROTC building burned
the dolorous bell rang and
rang -- a knell for the worst,
which had past. The guards in gas masks
kept themselves busy
marched to the fence
knelt and aimed rifles
(full of blanks, one told Allison)
at the ridge where
those on the edge of the rally loitered and
flung rocks -- and the codebreaker,
the killer -- girls, in tangled hair and sheer
shirts, mouths twisted and shameless,
shook their slender fingers in the air
and screamed cocksucker, motherfucker
fuck your cocksucking, motherfucking war.
No longer women, no longer girls
the raunchiest of whores, maybe.
The enemy. Students
who needed to be taught a lesson.
Did Miss Long understand what she was hearing?
She did not. What? she said loudly.
We looked up. No sonnet could
compete with news, breaking.
The messenger whispered,
and our English teacher, lover of all
meanings, stacked and shimmering,
that words could bear, said, My God.
They’re killing their own children.
If the troublemaking students have no better sense...
throwing missiles, bottles and bullets
at legally constituted police authority
and the National Guard,
they justly deserve the consequences
they bring upon themselves,
even if this does unfortunately result in death.
It would have been a good thing
if all those students had been shot.
It would have been better
for the country
if you had all been mowed down.
Live ammunition! Well, really,
what did they expect, spitballs?
I dream you’re running toward me,
your hair a cape.
I lie on the sidewalk. What’s
leaking out of my breast?
You kneel, or your knees buckle.
O, your mouth says.
I see our lances are but straws
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare...
Tell my lord and governor, thou hast tam’d a curst shrew
I pant for fifteen minutes.
They carry me offstage to die.
©2003 Marilyn A. Johnson